This one didn’t go the Blackhawks’ way from the very beginning.
Marian Hossa was scratched at the last moment in favor of Ben Smith, who probably had half of a hot dog down in the press box before being summoned to the dressing room, and things didn’t get any better from there as the ‘Hawks fell 2-0 at TD Garden in Monday’s Game 3.
Zdeno Chara apparently received stitches after cracking his head on the ice in the pregame warmps and still played, so that’s a little bothersome. Either way, Hoss wasn’t out there and the bad news kept coming. Daniel Paille scored just over two minutes into the second period, then Patrice Bergeron added another later in the period to give the Bruins all they would need.
I don’t believe in calling any game a must-win until the other team has reached three victories, but let’s just say Wednesday is a “win-or-they’re-up-shit’s-creek-without-paddle” game.
Let’s see what we’ve got here…
♦ We’ve heard all of the DEY NEED TO DECLINE DA PENALTIES! DEY CAN DO DAT LIKE IN DA FOOZBALL GAME, RIGHT?!” jokes, but we’re at the point where the Blackhawks might be at more of a disadvantage when up a man. Credit is due to the Bruins’ aggressive and often relentless penalty kill, but let’s get serious here; a team that is built on speed and finesse continues to stand around while completely wasting two minutes of everyone’s time.
One specific example came when Patrick Kane held the puck around the boards and drifted high rather than pass the puck into an area down low that would force the Bruins to shift and potentially open up more ice – or even put himself in better position to find a lane and put the puck on net. He skated it toward the blue line, telegraphed a soft saucer pass everyone knew was coming, and the puck ended up out of the zone. These types of decisions have led to multiple shorthanded chances for the Bruins, especially Brad Marchand. The Blackhawks are basically killing Boston’s penalties for it.
♦ The Blackhawks had one of their best chances when the puck finally was being controlled around the net on the power play, as Kane found a streaking Duncan Keith. But, rather than him take a wide-open, 10-foot shot, Keith tried to make an extra pass and the puck bounced away nary a shot on goal. In fact, taking away Bryan Bickell hitting the post along with the rest of the mad scrambles in the final minute of the game, the ‘Hawks’ best scoring chances all failed to yield a shot on net. Viktor Stalberg had a prime chance in the slot and fired it wide, the Keith mishap and then a Brent Seabrook chance that he fired off target. Just getting a shot on net in those situations changes the complexion of the possession, giving a chance for a rebound or a secondary scoring opportunity. That kind of shit won’t beat Boston.
♦ Everyone can continue to praise Tuukka Rask – and he really has played extremely well – but man, the Blackhawks sure made it easy on him Monday. Of the Blackhawks’ 28 shots on net, we can probably count on one hand how many came from within 15 feet of the net- aside from the final minute. The Bruins are largely responsible for that, consistently forcing the Blackhawks forwards to the outside on the few rush attempts they had and basically building a force field around the center of the ice. However, the ‘Hawks seemed more than content with shooting from the point while the Boston D helped give Rask with a clear view of most of them. Pierre McGuire tried to ask Rask about his solid rebound control in the postgame interview, but Rask had so much time and such a perfect view of each shot that he would have to make a huge mistake for a rebound to be given. And, to his credit, he didn’t make any mistakes. The only time he got beat was when Bickell hit the post late.
♦ Speaking of goaltending, Corey Crawford is the reason this game wasn’t 12-0. I don’t put either goal on him. It’s a shame the Blackhawks have been able to muster just one goal over the last six-plus periods, including the overtime of Game 2.
♦ Dave Bolland took three penalties tonight. Thanks.
♦ Holy flying hell, the Blackhawks lost 40 of 56 faceoffs. I mean… what?! For a puck-possession team, this kind of shit can’t happen. Michal Handzus won as many faceoff as I did in 10 attempts. Bolland was 1 for 7. And fucking Patrice Bergeron won 24 of 28 at the dot. That’s just… sick. Part of the Blackhawks’ power-play issues stem from them not being able to win the initial draw, which usually winds up killing a good 20 seconds before trying some lame-ass attempt at an entry.
♦ I wonder what it’s going to take to put Kane back with Jonathan Toews. Factoring in the decision to play Brandon Bollig in the first two games, I have never seen a man completely disregard the adage of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” more than Coach Q. When Kane has been with Toews in these playoffs, he’s been an animal. Otherwise, not so much. He even looks frustrated. Kane is definitely one of those players that needs something to go well for him to get his motor running at full speed. And when it’s going shitty on a line with Handzus or anyone else, you can see the look of frustration on his face, in my opinion anyway.
I would like to give Q credit for thinking he wanted to spread his scoring threats out across the lines with Hossa out as the reason for keeping Kane away from Toews again, but I just don’t believe that’s the case. He basically rolled out every single line combo possible in the third period and still found a way to keep the two largely apart other than (I believe) a couple of brief instances.
♦ I’m sure there’s more, so feel free to let me know anything I missed…
There is some good news, though: The series isn’t over. A win Wednesday gives the Blackhawks the all-important – and really, what we expected – split in Boston and makes this a best-of-three series coming back to Chicago on Saturday. A loss? Well, let’s not talk about that right now….