The Stanley Cup Finals got off to a fantastic start last night with the Chicago Blackhawks defeating the Boston Bruins in a thrilling overtime game off a deflection goal by Andrew Shaw. Looking at the shot reports for this game will tell you that the Blackhawks dominated the Bruins for the majority of the contest and Tuukka Rask was the main reason why Boston stayed alive for so long. This is only partially true because while the Blackhawks had the puck a lot and were the better team, the Bruins did not get outplayed by nearly as much as the shot clock indicated and they were very close to taking a 1-0 series lead on many occasions.
Not many teams are going to win the territorial battle against the Hawks while playing on the road and the Bruins are no different, so while they were "outshot" by 51 at even strength, they did a fairly good job of either getting in the way of most of Chicago's opportunities or keeping them to the outside. This isn't a strategy that is going to win them the series, but I see them having difficulty keeping up with the Hawks at even strength, so the most they can do is try to limit Chicago's chances, make Corey Crawford work as much as possible and win the special teams battle.
The Bruins were able to do this to some degree last night because they were only outchanced by three at even strength, tested Crawford with 27 chances of their own and got a power play goal while blanking the Hawks on all three of their opportunities. Chicago was still the better team overall, but take away those two fortuitous deflections that found their way past Rask and this game could have had a different result. You create your own luck in this sport at times, though and the Hawks definitely had control of the play for long sections of this game and earned this win. Losing a game like this can be deflating, but the Bruins don't have much to panic about yet. Chicago will make a lot of teams look bad on the stat-sheet and this one could have ended up much worse.
Chicago Blackhawks vs. Boston Bruins Game 1
Overall, the Bruins were not outplayed by that because while Rask had to work to keep this game tied, they tested Crawford with just as many chances and came close to finishing it in overtime on multiple occasions. During regulation play, the Hawks did have the better of the scoring chances and dominated the last two periods, but the Bruins seemed to wake up after that. They had Rask to thank for getting them to overtime and did their best to thank him by getting win, outchancing Chicago 16-10 through three OT periods, but Crawford and a double-deflection goal off the stick of Blackhawk defenseman Michal Rozsival ended all hopes of that.
This was really a tale of two games (it was almost literally two games in fact), and there were bound to be stretches where one team dominated while the others hung on for dear life. The Hawks had their moments during regulation and got rewarded for it in the third period. The Bruins controlled the scoring chance battle in OT and had nothing to show for it. Unfortunate, but that's hockey for you sometimes.
Blackhawks Individual Scoring Chances
Best EV Forward: Brandon Saad +9
Worst EV Forward: Bryan Bickell -9
Best EV Defenseman: Michal Rozsival +3
Worst EV Defenseman: Brent Seabrook -2
It's hard to believe that Brandon Saad scores his first goal of the playoffs only last night because he has been very good throughout the post-season and looked unstoppable after being reunited with Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa. That line managed to stay away from Patrice Bergeron for most of the game and you can see that they greatly benefited from it. Hossa in particular was very impressive with him producing five scoring chances during even strength play alone and having the primary assist on Saad's goal. I would expect Claude Julien to be more careful with the matchups next game and get Bergeron's line out against trio because while Patrick Kane's line is dangerous, Toews' line is on the verge of really hurting the Bruins if they keep this up.
Toews line ended up producing only one goal despite having numerous chances, but Chicago's depth showed up in a big way. The Shaw-Bolland-Bickell line had a pretty big game on the scoresheet with two goals including the game-winner and the fourth line also chipped in with some good forechecking on the Oduya goal. The two goals produced by the Bolland line were huge, but they were crushed defensively and this didn't come back to haunt Chicago. Probably because a lot of the Boston chances they were on the ice for were against the likes of Dan Paille, Kaspars Daugavins and Shawn Thornton. While it's not good to get outplayed by the opposition's depth forwards, those three players are the least likely on the Bruins lineup to score. It's something to watch for over the next few games, though. Especially when the Bruins have the last change.
Bruins Individual Scoring Chances
Best EV Forward: Daniel Paille +4
Worst EV Forwards: Jaromir Jagr & Rich Peverley -5
Best EV Defenseman: Torey Krug +2
Worst EV Defenseman: Andrew Ference -9
In my series prediction, I saw the Bruins first line fighting Keith/Seabrook & the Blackhawks top forwards to a stalemate and that's basically what happened last night. Krejci and Lucic were responsible for a good chunk of the Bruins offense but gave up just as much in their own end. They still produced two goals so their defensive short-comings did not hurt the team as much, but they lost a big piece in Nathan Horton during the first overtime period.
Thankfully the Bruins have a pretty damn good player in Tyler Seguin who they can promote to the top line in situations like this. He was very impressive in overtime with three individual scoring chances. I would expect him to go to the top line and we'll just have to wait and see how much of a drop-off he is from Horton, if any at all. Chicago is going to have trouble keeping this line under wraps, but one thing they did succeed at was shutting down Brad Marchand & Jaromir Jagr, something Pittsburgh could not do at all.
Boston had some issues defensively in Game 1, as evidenced from the performance by their second and third lines. The Blackhawks also exposed Dennis Seidenberg frequently last night, recording over half of their even strength scoring chances while he was on the ice. I also think it's safe to assume that this will be the last time Andrew Ference gets to play this much at even strength.
Head-to-head at Five-on-Five
The big matchup win for Chicago came with their first line outchancing Boston's in head-to-head play, but Krejci's line was able to make up for that by exposing Chicago's third line whenever they were out against each other. In a game that goes this long, coaches are never going to get the exact matchup they want and there are going to be some guys getting exposed. Ference & Boychuk's play against the Toews line is a fine example of that, seeing how they were destroyed by that line while Chara & Seidenberg (likely the defense pairing Julien wanted in those situations)had a fairly respectable performance against them. Every Boston forward's performance against Bolland's line is also a good example of this because I doubt Quinneville wants this trio out against Krejci for more than a few shifts.
|1||BOS||6:50||Lucic - GOAL||19||10||81||4||27||50||46||18||17||33||44||40||5v5|
|2||BOS||19:09||Lucic - GOAL||26||88||29||4||27||50||46||18||17||33||44||40||5v5|
|2||CHI||16:52||Saad - GOAl||19||81||20||4||27||50||46||18||17||33||44||40||5v5|
|3||BOS||13:51||Bergeron - GOAL||16||26||2||4||50||19||37||68||17||33||40||4v5|
|3||CHI||12:00||Bolland - GOAL||36||65||29||4||8||50||19||23||49||47||54||40||5v5|
|3 OT||CHI||7:52||Shaw - GOAL||36||65||29||8||32||50||23||49||20||44||47||40||5v5|