Each game in this year's finals has been unique, but a recurring theme in all five games has been the Hawks being the better club in terms of even strength play. The only time when the Bruins outchanced Chicago was Game Three and even in that game they lost the possession-battle. This didn't always translate to wins because the Bruins have gotten superior goaltending and had a pretty big advantage in the special teams game, but the Hawks have had the advantage overall when the terms are even. Boston isn't getting outplayed so much that they've been getting dominated, but they now find themselves on the brink of elimination. Rask's play and Chicago's bad special teams might be enough for the B's to overcome this deficit, but it's tough to overlook the advantage Chicago has at even strength. It's how they've been such a good team all year and was the main reason why they won Game 5.
The Bruins had a strong start and there were sections where they controlled play, but the Blackhawks had a pretty sizable advantage overall. They really took over the game in the second period by suffocating the Bruins offense in the neutral zone. In turn, this created a good amount of sustained zone time and transition chances for the Blackhawks. The biggest one being Patrick Kane's second goal where the Hawks effortlessly moved the puck into the Bruins zone and scored on an easy rebound chance to take a 2-0 lead. The Bruins barely had the puck for that period and the Hawks were able to establish a pretty big territorial advantage. Chicago's disadvantage on special teams didn't matter because there were only two total power plays and the Bruins didn't have any of them.
A big reason for Boston's struggles was Patrice Bergeron leaving the game in the second period. Next to Chara, Bergeron is the most important skater the Bruins have. He is their top matchup guy, an amazing play-driver, a good face-off taker and one of their leading scorers. The Bruins may have good center depth, but they don't have anyone who can replace him, so they were going to struggle the rest of the game regardless, and this is exactly what happened. Jonathan Toews not playing a shift in the third period sort of evened the playing field because he is to Chicago what Bergeron is to the Bruins, but aside from a rough 10 minutes, the Hawks were able to get by fine without him. The Hawks are weaker at center than the Bruins, but the amount of top-end players they have can help them cover up a big injury at times.
Chicago has a clear advantage now, but it will be interesting to see what happens if Bergeron & Toews can not play. Their absence is obviously going to change the landscape for both teams given how important these two players are. The playoffs are always a war of attrition with the deeper teams being the ones who survive, but I have a hard time remembering when both teams in the Stanley Cup Final lost a key player in the same game. We'll have to see how things shake out from here.no comments