Last night, the Bruins played what was probably the worst first period of any game of this year's post-season. For those 20 minutes, they were outshot 19-4, outchaned 13-2 and thoroughly dominated by the Blackhawks in all phases. It was on pace to be one of the most lopsided Stanley Cup Final games in recent memory but despite their horrific performance in the first period, the Bruins were only trailing 1-0. They have goaltender Tuukka Rask to thank for this. He kept the Bruins in the game after the team in front of him sleepwalked through the first period and they could have easily had to come back from a bigger deficit if it wasn't for him.
This isn't the first time that Rask has has to bail his team out of a tough situation and I get the feeling that it won't be the last, considering how good of a team Chicago is at even strength. The good news is that Boston matches up with them fairly well and they were able to contain them well for the next two periods. After getting bulldozed for the first 20 minutes, Boston outchanced Chicago 7-3 in the second and third periods and did an excellent job of containing the Hawks most dangerous forwards. Bruins coach Claude Julien stated that his team "started playing" after the first period and that's a fairly accurate assessment when you look at the period-by-period stats.
There are going to be a lot of people saying that the Bruins were "lucky" to win this game and in many ways they were. They had no business being down by only one goal after that first period and Chicago also had a goal waved off, so it easily could have been at least a 2-0 game. However, I think they deserve some credit for tightening up after that and shutting down Chicago's offense. They were also the superior team in overtime, which is ultimately what won them this game and why this is a tied series heading back to Boston. You have to be good and lucky to win a Cup and the Bruins were both last night.
Stanley Cup Final Game 2
This was a much different game after that first period, as the Bruins put together an excellent defensive performance in the second and third periods. They did a very good job of containing Chicago's offense but they didn't create many chances of their own, which could be a problem as this series goes on. They don't have the firepower to get into a high-event game with the Blackhawks, so the most they can do is limit their chacnes and create offense through transitional play. The Bruins were very successful with this during overtime and it probably helped that most of Chicago's big minute players looked gassed at that point. Of course, none of this would have been possible had it not been for Rask saving their bacon in that first period.
Blackhawks Individual Scoring Chances
Best EV Forward: Jonathan Toews +7
Worst EV Forwards: Marcus Kruger & Michael Frolik -3
Best EV Defenseman: Michal Rozsival +6
Worst EV Defenseman: Brent Seabrook -5
Aside from Jaromir Jagr, Jonathan Toews might be having the worst luck this post-season. Despite driving the play at a high rate and his line creating a boat-load of chances, he has only four even strength points and he came away empty-handed yet again last night. Saad, Hossa & Toews were the only line that consistently tipped the ice in Chicago's favor last night and should get rewarded for it sooner or later. Sharp, Kane & Handzus also provided a lot offense, but it's worth pointing out that five of the chances they created came on one shift and were not great defensively either.
That line was on the ice for Chris Kelly's goal and Chicago's fourth line got tagged for the game-winner after Brandon Bollig lost control of the puck while trying to exit the zone. Chicago has very good forward depth and their fourth line is usually a fairly strong unit at even strength, but this was not one of their better games. Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook also had uncharacteristically bad games, especially for their standards.
Bruins Individual Scoring Chances
Best EV Forward: Brad Marchand +4
Worst EV Forward: Rich Peverley -8
Best EV Defenseman: Adam McQuaid +3
Worst EV Defenseman: Johnny Boychuk -7
The only line adjustment Claude Julien made after that disastrous first period was switching Shawn Thornton and Tyler Seguin on his bottom two lines. It ended up paying dividends, as Seguin, Paille & Kelly were one of Boston's better lines last night and the Hawks depth players had trouble keeping up with their speed. They also produced both of Boston's goals last night and I thought Seguin was very impressive. This line is going to get most of the credit, but Bergeron's line was equally impressive and came close to scoring more than a few times. I know that Rask is going to be running away with the Conn Smythe trophy voting if the Bruins win this series, but Bergeron should get some consideration because his two-way play has been nothing short of excellent.
Chara/Seidenberg should also get some praise for how they played last night because although neither drove the play much, both were very good defensively can kept most of Chicago's forwards after the first period. These two also avoided most of the damage taken in the first period, as Ference/Boychuk were responsible for most of that. I'm not sure if the Bruins have the personnel to do this, but Julien might want to look into splitting these two up because they've been pretty brutal in both games so far. I'm not sure if McQuaid, Bartkowski, Redden or Krug offer much of an improvement, though.
Head-to-Head at Five-on-Five
Toews crushed Krejci in head-to-head play again and it will be interesting to see how he does on the road where he'll likely be matched up against Bergeron's line. That line has given Chicago some trouble in these first two games and could give the Hawks a lot of fits while playing at home. Also take note of how most of the chances Kane's line created came against Boston's bottom-six, which will likely not happen if Julien plays his cards right.
Another interesting matchup is Quinneville using Niklas Hjalmarsson and Johnny Oduya against Krejci's line instead of the heralded pairing of Duncan Keith & Brent Seabrook. What's even more interesting is that Keith & Seabrook struggled to contain Boston's top-six while Hjalmarsson & Oduya shut down the Bruins top line. Hjalarmsson has impressed me a ton this post-season and his performance last night only added to that.
|1||CHI||8:38||Sharp - GOAL||26||10||88||2||32||50||19||49||16||21||55||40||5v5|
|2||BOS||5:03||Kelly - GOAL||26||10||88||8||32||50||19||23||20||21||55||40||5v5|
|OT||BOS||6:12||Paille - GOAL||16||67||52||2||7||50||19||23||20||21||54||40||5v5|