With Boston having evened up the 2013 Stanley Cup Finals as 1-1, they return home and have been shifted to series favorites of -120 (Chicago Even). Frankly, this does not seem to matter one bit as the hockey could not be any more even or distinct.
The theme for the rest of the series is the same as it was going in. Whatever team can play their style, will create scoring chances and if they take advantage of them, will win the game.
In the opener, the Blackhawks controlled the play for the first 10 minutes, before the Bruins began playing their more grinding style and took a first period lead. Both teams did what they needed in the second period and scored. Boston came out stronger in the third period and built a 3-1 advantage, when Chicago went into overdrive with how they can skate and tied it up. Both squads had their chances in the overtimes and in the preceding 100 seconds before the game winning goal, the Hawks were skating faster and had the B’s scrambling.
In the second contest, Chicago looked by be skating on air, buzzing by Boston players in the neutral zone and their own end, outshooting Boston 19-4 and would have been ahead 3-0 except for the remarkable play of netminder Tuukka Rask. The first eight minutes of period two were largely won by the Blackhawks, yet you could sense the Bruins realized they survived the worst, were only a goal down and for the most part, dictated tempo the rest of the contest before scoring in OT. Chicago was outshot 24-15 after the first period.
Anyone who watched The Finals two years ago will remember TD Garden might have been the loudest hockey venue ever coming into your living room through a television. Boston fans wanted it for their team and they crushed the Canucks 17-3 in the three home games.
Knowing and executing are two different behaviors and Chicago like Boston in the last conflict, has to survive the first 10 to 12 minutes. If the Hawks do, the play will settle in like the previous two battles. Coach Joel Quenneville has been and will be during the game trying to convince his club the importance of his team playing to their strengths, speed and skating. When the Blackhawks do this, they are the better team and have proven they have four dependable lines to throw at the Black, Gold and White.
Corey Crawford is doing his job between the pipes and defensemen Johnny Oduya and Niklas Hjalmarsson were very effective Saturday against the Bruins top line, after they played so well in the initial contest. Chicago can win in the Garden by using their skill and speed and take back home ice advantage.
While coach Claude Julien and his players will never admit it, they blew Game 1 and stole Game 2, leaving the series probably where it should be. Julien changed lines and it appeared to energize his team. The Bruins still need more from the other lines, particular Shawn Thornton who played less the five minutes Saturday. With Thornton not doing the job, Tyler Seguin and Jaromir Jagr not scoring (one combined goal in the postseason), the loss of Gregory Campbell is really felt, having suffered a broken leg against Pittsburgh.
Nonetheless, the B’s have to be thrilled to be back home. Rask is still at his best, the Boston players played their preferred style the last two-thirds of the previous contest and they know Chicago is 18-48 when they score two or fewer goals.
This is a pivotal engagement, with the home team a -130 money line favorite. It is noteworthy the Bruins are 8-0 in Game 3 of a series and Chicago is 0-5 the past three years.