Blackhawks trade Bolland, Frolik; Sign Bickell

1297434232923_ORIGINALJust 6 days after the Blackhawks fourth line scored the game-winning goal in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final, two of the three players on that line have been traded. Today, Stan Bowman sent Dave Bolland to the Maple Leafs in exchange for the 51st and 117th picks in today’s draft, as well as a 4th round pick in next year’s draft. He also traded Michael Frolik to the Winnipeg Jets for the 74th and 134th picks in today’s draft. While these moves are definitely disappointing for Hawks fans, they are smart moves. On the bright side, it was just announced that Bryan Bickell signed a 4-year, $16 million contract with the Blackhawks.

Okay, so a lot to digest here. Let’s start with the trades.

By moving Bolland and Frolik, the Blackhawks gained about $5 million in cap space for next season, increasing their total cap space to over $13 million according to nhl_blackhawks_23CapGeek.com. With the signing of Bickell for a reported $4 million per year, that cap space now drops to around $9 million for next season. Obviously, people are going to be upset seeing the names Bolland and Frolik being traded. However, you need to look at the numbers in this trade.

Bolland and Frolik were a combined $5 million cap hit next season, which is an awful lot of money to be spending on 2 fourth line players. The Hawks knew that in order to sign someone like Bryan Bickell, they needed to free up some cap space. Trading Bolland did just that, and the Hawks wasted no time in extending Bickell. By trading Frolik, the Blackhawks have gained even more cap space to re-sign a guy like Nick Leddy. There have been talks of the Hawks trading Leddy, but I now doubt that will happen. Leddy is due to become a RFA this summer if the Hawks do not extend his contract.

So, now what do the Blackhawks do with their remaining $9 million?

They could do a number of things. My best guess is that they are going to re-sign Nick Leddy, and maybe even Ray Emery. They will also do what they did last year and sign some role players and depth players. I am not so sure that they will make a big splash by signing someone like Briere or any other big name, although that is not out of the question. It is no secret that they need a true number 2 center, and with their now high cap space, they could acquire a decent center.

Brandon-Pirri

Brandon Pirri

One thing is for sure, however. Guys like Ben Smith and Brandon Pirri are going to get their fair shot at becoming impact players on the Blackhawks next season. Ben Smith will most likely be on one of the Hawks’ bottom 2 lines to start the season, and Pirri could even find himself as the second line center. Personally, I don’t think it is a good idea to put a rookie into that much important number 2 center position. I believe that going out and acquiring a good, veteran second line center would be the better option.

A lot can happen now with the Blackhawks. They have a ton of money to spend, even after signing Bickell. The question now is whether or not they will spend all of that money, and if they do, how will it be spent? On role players, or on a big name or two? Either way, Stan Bowman has really been working hard here the last 24 hours, and I am confident he’ll make the right decisions moving forward.

CHAMPIONS

CT hawks-bruins55.JPGAfter nearly 2 months of grinding out every second of every shift, sacrificing blood, sweat, and broken bones, the Blackhawks can once again call themselves Stanley Cup champions. It is only fitting that they would clinch the Cup with one of the most dramatic endings to a game in Stanley Cup history. This team was presented with challenge after challenge over the course of this postseason, and they came out on top each time.

Think about everything that the Blackhawks had to overcome in these playoffs to win the Cup. They were down 3-1 in their series with Detroit and battled back to win the series in a crazy 7th game. They were without Duncan Keith in Game 4 in L.A. and found a way to win without him. In Game 1 against Boston, they were down 3-1 in the third period and scored 2 goals to tie the game before winning it in triple overtime. Even in Game 6, the Blackhawks found themselves down 2-1 with less than 2 minutes to go, and somehow scored 2 goals in 17 seconds to tie and win the game, and the Cup.

All year long, the Blackhawks have proven people wrong. I’ll be the first to admit that I did not think this team was built to win a Stanley Cup. So many times I have criticized Stan Bowman for not doing more at the trade deadline. So many times I have stated that the Blackhawks “are too small” and “not physical enough” to win the Stanley Cup. I was wrong. This team had too much heart to lose. Regardless of what challenge was thrown their way, they found a way to overcome it. Whether it was a major deficit in a series, or a relentless physical pounding from Boston, the Blackhawks battled through it all and can now call themselves champions.

This team plays like its captain. Jonathan Toews is the most competitive player in hockey 2013 NHL Stanley Cup Final - Game Sixif you ask me. He does anything he can to will his team to victory. Maybe the best example of this was when he scored short handed from his knees to tie Game 7 against Vancouver in 2011 with about 2 minutes left in regulation. He never gave up on the play and wasn’t going to be denied. Last night, he displayed this same effort in the final seconds of the game.

With Boston trying to get the puck into the offensive zone, Jonathan Toews was all over the ice making plays on the puck. As the final seconds ticked away, it was Toews who was sprawled out on the ice clearing the puck back into Boston’s own end. Watch it here:

Aside from Toews’ efforts in Game 6, Duncan Keith was all over the ice as well. He played maybe his best game of the playoffs, and it paid off.

dave_bolland.jpg.size.xxlarge.promoI said coming into Game 6 that the bottom two lines for Chicago are what would win them the game, and I was right. It was the fourth line for the Blackhawks that got the winning goal with 58 seconds left in regulation. Johnny Oduya’s shot made its way to the net, and Dave Bolland knocked in the rebound for the game-winner.

While Game 6 started out in Boston’s favor, it was Corey Crawford and the Blackhawks’ penalty kill that kept them in this game. Crawford came up with number of huge saves, and the PK unit was 4-4 in killing off penalties.

This Blackhawks team should go down as one of the greatest in NHL history. They started the season by going 24 straight games without a regulation loss, and finished the season by winning the President’s Trophy with a record of 36-7-5. Yes, it was a shortened season, but this team dominated from start to finish like no one has before.

Looking forward, you can’t help but think that this could be the beginning of a dynasty. The Blackhawks already have 2 Cups in the last 4 years, and if their core can stay intact, who knows what they could do down the road.

I can’t wait to find out.

Blackhawks on the verge

nhl_g_toews1x_576Tonight is the night that all of us Blackhawks fans have been waiting for since the end of the summer of 2010. Tonight, the Blackhawks could win their 5th Stanley Cup in franchise history with a win against the Bruins in Boston. Winning the fourth game of a playoff series, let a lone the Stanley Cup Final, is always the toughest win to get. For some players, it is hard to stay focused on going out and playing the game while knowing that they could win the Cup with a victory. For others, knowing that they’re just one win away provides even more motivation to go out and play with every ounce of energy and focus that they have. This is the type of player that I believe the Blackhawks are made up of.

A big deal is being made of the theory that the Blackhawks might be distracted by what they could potentially accomplish tonight. I’m not buying into that. While only 8 of the dt.common.streams.StreamServercurrent Blackhawks have won the Cup, this is a group of players that won’t lose their focus. When you are on a team led by players such as Toews, Keith, Sharp, Seabrook, Hossa, and so on, it is hard to lose focus on the task at hand. The leadership on the Blackhawks is incredible, and it is a huge reason as to why this team has been so successful this season. The guys who have been in this situation just so happen to be great role models to the younger, less experienced players on the Hawks. For that reason, I am expecting to see the Blackhawks more focused than they have been all season tonight.

As well as the Blackhawks have played and as much effort as they have given over the course of this postseason and these last 2 games, I am confident that tonight will be their best effort yet. They know the Bruins are going to give their own best possible effort to avoid elimination, so they will have to match Boston and probably play with even more effort than the Bruins.

Jonathan Toews said today that he will for sure be playing tonight, which is a very good thing for the Blackhawks for obvious reasons. Patrice Bergeron, however, is still not quite sure whether or not he’ll be playing tonight. Claude Julien said after the Bruins’ morning skate today (Bergeron did not participate) that Bergeron will take part in the warmups tonight, and he hopes that Bergeron will play. So while it sounds like both players will be on the ice tonight, the status of Patrice Bergeron is a bit more up in the air.

So how do the Blackhawks finish off the Bruins tonight? Well, they need to continue doing what they’ve done over the last 2 games. In Games 4 and 5, the Blackhawks really used their speed to their advantage and were able to create a lot of offensive chances by doing so. The Bruins’ biggest weakness in 5-on-5 play is defending fast teams like the Blackhawks. If the Hawks can come out of the gates and dictate the way this game will be played, they should win. If they sit back and let Boston play their own game, then the Bruins will most likely win. In the end, it all comes down to which side wants it more and brings the best effort.

While guys like Kane and Toews have really stepped up this series, I think that tonight may come down to which ever team gets more production from their bottom lines. The Blackhawks are the deeper team and over the course of this series, they have gotten the better production from their depth players. I see no reason as to why this shouldn’t be the tumblr_mobhobDwqu1qj5er8o1_500case again tonight, and it could prove to be the difference. Guys like Saad, Shaw, Bolland, Frolik, Stalberg, and Kruger all need to be at the top of their game tonight and continue providing offense for the Blackhawks.

This is going to be the toughest game of the year for the Blackhawks, and they know it. They are going to have to come out as the more desperate team, and they are going to need to play with 110% effort. The Bruins are not going to go away easily. They will fight until the final horn blows, win or lose.

Like I already said, I am very confident in the Blackhawks and I think they will win tonight. They have that cold-blooded, killer instinct in them that all the great teams in history have had. When your captain is Jonathan Toews and you are one win away from hoisting the Stanley Cup, you are going to be prepared and you are going to do everything you can to win that game. That’s just the type of mentality that Toews instills in his teammates. He is the ultimate competitor, and tonight, I’d expect the Blackhawks to be the ultimate competitors.

Blackhawks take crucial Game 4

stanley_cupgm4It was a must-win game for the Blackhawks, and they stepped up to the challenge and won Game 4 by a final of 6-5 in overtime against the Bruins. For me at least, that was about as uncomfortable as I have felt while watching the Blackhawks play this year. It felt like no lead was safe, and in fact that’s just how it was. Every time the Blackhawks scored, the Bruins had an answer. Twice the Hawks had 2-goal leads of 3-1 and 4-2, but they couldn’t hang on to either of them. I feel like if they would have played 5 more minutes of overtime after Seabrook scored, the Bruins would have tied the game. That’s just the way things were going.

Many people were saying that the Blackhawks wouldn’t win this series unless Jonathan Jonathan Toews, Patrick KaneToews found the back of the net. Well, he scored his second goal of the postseason in Game 4 and played one of his best games yet during these playoffs. Patrick Kane, who had been held scoreless since Game 5 against L.A., also scored in Game 4. I don’t think it is any coincidence that Kane and Toews both scored after being reunited on the top line. Those two simply have a chemistry between them that is at times unparalleled by any other duo in the league.

As for the lines last night as a whole, I think it’s safe to say that Quenneville will be sticking with them from here on out. The Blackhawks scored 6 goals last night, which is impressive, but they did it against arguably the league’s best defensive team, which is even more impressive. At the same time, however, the Bruins did score 5 goals against the Blackhawks, who are not a bad defensive team in any way, shape, or form.

Corey Crawford is being blasted today by many people from sports radio show hosts, to TV analysts, to NHL writers. Some people, and they are ignorant people, are even suggesting that Joel Quenneville should bench Crawford for Game 5 in place of Ray 170887798_slideEmery. I love how so many people are over-reactionary. Corey Crawford had a bad game. He’s not perfect. In fact, he’s probably the main reason as to why the Blackhawks are this far into the playoffs. Name one other game this postseason in which you can confidently say Crawford played bad. Name one Blackhawks’ loss this postseason that you can blame on Crawford. My guess is you can’t. The guy had a bad game. That stuff happens. And you know what? The Blackhawks still won Game 4. It’s not like he gave up 5 goals and the Hawks lost 5-1. If you are going to blast Crawford, then you should blast Tuukka Rask as well.

All anyone has been talking about since Game 2 of this series ended is how Tuukka Rask is the hands down Conn Smythe winner if the Bruins win this series. Sure, he’s played good, but he hasn’t done anything that we’ve never seen before. Part of the reason why his numbers were good through the first 3 games of this series is because the Blackhawks were terrible offensively in games 2 and 3. Rask gave up 6 goals in Game 4 and the Bruins lost the game (on home ice). Why isn’t that getting more attention than it is?

Moving forward, the Blackhawks do need to be a lot better defensively. There were too many instances in Game 4 where they didn’t clear the puck when they should have, when they didn’t have anyone boxing out in front of Crawford, and when they allowed Boston’s point-men to have open looks at the net (for example, Johnny Boychuk’s goal). Crawford did give up a few bad goals, there’s no denying that, but the Hawks’ defense also hung him out to dry on a couple of those.

One thing that has me a little worried right now is the Blackhawks’ penalty kill. This was possibly their biggest strength during the regular season and first 3 rounds of the playoffs, but now it looks like a weakness. The Bruins already have 4 power play goals through the first 4 games of this series, and the Blackhawks don’t seem to have an answer. While I’d like to think that the PK will turn itself around and that the Bruins’ season-long bad PP will return, part of me thinks that the Bruins found a weakness in the Hawks’ penalty kill and that they’re exploiting it. One solution for the Blackhawks is to stop taking penalties.

Marcus+Kruger+Boston+Bruins+v+Chicago+Blackhawks+RhnZy62kcoUlAside from the penalty kill, I am pretty confident looking ahead to Game 5 back in Chicago. This is now a best of 3 series with 2 games being at the United Center where the Hawks have played well all year. In Game 4, the Blackhawks were the clear-cut better team. The only reason that game was close was because A) Crawford had an off night, and B) the Bruins had some lucky bounces. You could also say that the Blackhawks played their worst defensive game of the postseason, and I’d bet they won’t do that again. The Blackhawks controlled much of the puck possession and dominated in shots-on-goal. They played their game instead of letting Boston play their own game. They used their speed to a major advantage, and they’ll need to keep doing so. In Game 5, I hope to see the Blackhawks come out again and play like it’s another Game 7. They need to give everything they’ve got until there is no more hockey left to play.

Like I said before, I am pretty confident right now about the Blackhawks’ chances in this series. They’ve got 2 of the remaining 3 games on their home ice, and they have proven that they can beat Boston. They got their worst defensive effort out of the way, and yet they still won that game. If the Hawks really want to win the Cup, then they need to continue playing like it. When they do that, they are almost unbeatable.

Blackhawks must win Game 4

170770455_slideThere have only been a couple of times this year when the Blackhawks have faced some major adversity. The first being when they fell into a 3-1 hole against Detroit in the Western Conference Quarterfinals, and the second being right now at this very second. Currently, the Blackhawks trail the Bruins 2-1 in the Stanley Cup Final, which probably doesn’t seem like a huge deal to a casual fan. However, I am here to say otherwise. Tonight’s Game 4 is a MUST win for the Blackhawks.

After losing Game 2 at home to the Bruins, the Blackhawks’ main goal heading into Games 3 and 4 in Boston was to win at least one of them. Even though they lost Game 3, they can still achieve their goal by winning tonight.

With a win in tonight’s game, the Blackhawks will even the series up at 2 apiece and regain home-ice advantage in the series heading back home for Game 5. What more could you ask for at this point? If they lose tonight, however, they will go down 3-1 to a Boston team that will almost certainly finish off the Hawks in one of the next 2 games and not let them back into the series, unlike Detroit. That is why this Game 4 is a must win.

Tonight’s game will say a lot about the Blackhawks’ character and what they’re made of. They absolutely need to play all 60 minutes like it is Game 7. They need to give 110% 170770149_slideevery second of every shift. They need to go all-out and win the board battles, win the foot races to the puck, win the area in front of the crease, and win the battle of desperation. They have done this before against Detroit when they went down in the series 3-1, and they did this in the third period of Game 4 against the Kings, in L.A. If they cannot do these things tonight, they will lose. Boston plays like the best team in the NHL when on their home ice, and therefore you must play a nearly perfect game of hockey to beat them at the TD Garden. They will be going for the “kill” tonight against the Blackhawks, and the only way to stop them is by playing the way I just described a few sentences ago.

Obviously, the Blackhawks know the situation that they’re in, and they know that they have to win tonight. Joel Quenneville stated yesterday, “Very important game tomorrow night. We have to win tomorrow night.” You don’t often hear him say those words. When faced with this type of situation in these playoffs, the Blackhawks have stepped up and answered the bell. Hopefully they can do it again tonight.

LINE CHANGES

170769196_slideWith Marian Hossa being absent from the lineup in Game 3, Joel Quenneville put Ben Smith in his spot. This set off a chain reaction of line changes throughout the game, and subsequently the Blackhawks never looked comfortable the whole night. They were playing with guys that they normally wouldn’t (Kruger-Toews-Frolik as an example), and they seemed out of rhythm.

This morning, Marian Hossa missed the team’s morning skate, but Coach Q stated afterwards that Hossa is “fine,” and they expect him to play tonight. That is a very encouraging sign for the Hawks and us fans.

As for the what the lines may look like tonight, here you go:

Bickell-Toews-Kane

Sharp-Handzus-Hossa

Saad-Shaw-Stalberg

Kurger-Bolland-Frolik

These were the line-rushes at today’s morning skate, minus Marian Hossa. Finally, Quenneville has apparently opted to reunite Bickell, Toews, and Kane like he did late in the series against L.A. That line was dominant. The second line of Sharp, Handzus, and Hossa was pretty darn good too. Sharp and Hossa have always had some chemistry, but Hossa and Handzus seem to have generated some as well over recent weeks.

170197762_slideWe will now get to see how Boston will try and handle the duo of Toews and Kane. Kane is much better with Toews as his center because of Toews’ speed, and Kane is a lot more effective with fast line mates than he is with slow ones like Handzus. These line changes should also benefit Bryan Bickell as well, because now a lot more focus will be placed on his two line mates rather than himself.

I am confident that the Blackhawks will play a much better game tonight than they did in Game 3. This team has stepped up when they have needed to all year, and I don’t anticipate anything different tonight.

SCF Game 3 preview

170634379_slideTonight, the Blackhawks and Bruins will play Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final with the series tied at 1 apiece. After winning Game 1 in triple overtime, the Blackhawks dropped Game 2 in just the first overtime. So far, this series has been as advertised: epic. Hopefully the rest of the series will provide us with more great hockey. I would expect nothing other than that.

Because they lost Game 2 on their home ice, it is imperative that the Blackhawks win at least one of the these next two games in Boston. They cannot afford to go down 3-1 again like they did against Detroit. The Bruins are not the Red Wings. Winning in Boston as the visiting team is one of the toughest things to do in the NHL, but the Blackhawks must find a  way to get the job done. It’s that simple.

While the Bruins look like they are going to throw their usual lines out on the ice tonight, the Blackhawks have made one change to theirs. Viktor Stalberg is back in the lineup in place chi_u_viktor_576of Brandon Bollig on the fourth line. While Bollig provides a physical style of play to the Hawks’ lineup, he isn’t very useful in doing anything else. Stalberg, on the other hand, is one of the fastest skaters in the league and is a constant threat to create odd-man rushes because of that speed. It has been clear over the first two games of this series that the Blackhawks’ biggest advantage over Boston is their speed, so Stalberg has been placed back into the lineup to add to that advantage.

Tonight, the Blackhawks need to keep their foot on the gas pedal if they have a good first period. In Game 2, the Blackhawks outshot the Bruins 19-4 in the first period. They only came away with one goal out of those 19 shots, but they just completely dominated that period. From the start of the second period on, it looked like the Blackhawks were suddenly scared of getting hit and got away from the style of game that they were playing in the first. That led to Boston controlling the puck more often, and eventually 2 Bruins goals that won the game. If they Blackhawks start to control the game at any point tonight, they need to keep the pedal to the metal and ram the puck down Boston’s throats.

The power play for the Blackhawks needs to start scoring. If they aren’t going to score on the power play, then the Hawks need to at least generate some shots on goal and gain the momentum in the game. Their lack of success with the man advantage killed them in Game 2, and almost killed them in Game 1.

When they have the puck in the offensive zone, the Blackhawks need to quit trying to make the “pretty” passes and instead just get the puck to the net. I can’t tell you how many times in Game 2 the Blackhawks passed up open shots and tried forcing passes across the ice that got intercepted. In a series like this, just throw the puck at the net and clean up the rebounds. It’s a lot harder said than done, I understand that, but you can’t keep turning the puck over in the offensive zone by trying to force passes and make cute plays.

I have confidence that at some point soon, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane are going to 061113_linesget their games going. Those two have way too much talent to be held scoreless for so long, especially Toews. Honestly, If I were Joel Quenneville, I would place Kane and Toews on the same line again like he did late in the series against L.A. Those two seem to ignite one another when on the same line and they become one of the best duos in the game. If the Hawks are having trouble scoring at any point in this series moving forward, look for Quenneville to place Kane on Toews’ line.

The TD Garden is going to be an extremely tough place to win. It gets extremely loud there, and the Bruins feed off the energy in that building very well. It is easily one of the best home-ice advantages in hockey. Having said that, at the time of Game 4 between the Blackhawks and Kings in L.A., the Staples Center was arguably the best home-ice advantage in the NHL. The Blackhawks won that Game 4 and took control of the series by doing so. They have proven multiple times that they can win in hostile environments, and I expect them to win at least one game in Boston.

Again, look for Joel Quenneville to start the line blender if things aren’t going well tonight. He is one of the best coaches, if not the best, at effectively switching up the lines mid-game.

This should be a good one.

Blackhawks-Bruins Game 1 thoughts

170398894_slideWell, what a way to start the Stanley Cup Final. Everyone was predicting this to be an epic series that would likely go at least 6 games, possibly 7, and it looks like everyone could be right. It took 3 overtime periods to decide the winner of Game 1, and in the end the Blackhawks came out on top by a final score of 4-3. After watching just one game of this series, we now have a much better feel as to how these two teams match up.

One game doesn’t tell you everything you need to know about how the Bruins and Blackhawks compare to each other, but considering the uncertainty of this subject prior to Game 1, we now know a lot more than we did. Here’s what I took away from Game 1:

  • Boston’s top line is incredibly good.
  • Chicago’s speed is already giving Boston problems.
  • The Blackhawks have more quality depth.
  • Both goalies are on top of their game.
  • Special teams has already been, and will be, very important.
  • Turnovers could determine the winner of this series.

Milan Lucic was a force in Game 1. He scored Boston’s first 2 goals, and threatened a number of times to get a third. That line of Lucic, Bergeron, and Horton has a lot more offensive talent than they get credit for. However, Nathan Horton left the game in overtime last night after an apparent shoulder injury and did not return. His status as of today (Thursday) is day-to-day according to Claude Julien. Boston cannot afford to lose Horton for more than a game in this series. While they lost him from Game 3 on in the Cup Final 2 years ago and still won the thing, they do not have the same depth as they did then to effectively replace him. Back in 2011, they had the option of bumping Michael Ryder up in the lineup, Rich Peverley, or dressing Tyler Seguin (he was a rookie and a frequent scratch in the lineup then). Now, their depth is not like it used to be, and losing Horton for more than a game is a big loss.

The speed of the Blackhawks was talked about a lot heading into this series. Many, myself included, thought that this was Chicago’s biggest advantage over Boston and that it could be what puts the Hawks over the top in this series. After Game 1, it looks like we were right. The speed of the Blackhawks in the neutral zone after getting a takeaway was giving Boston fits in Game 1, and their speed coming out of their own end and up the ice provided problems for the Bruins as well. Also, and maybe most importantly, the speed of the Blackhawks on the back-check killed Boston’s odd-man rushes up the ice. I can’t begin to come up with the exact number of odd-man breaks that the Bruins had last night, but none of them resulted in well executed shots on goal. Whether it was a two one one chi_g_hjalmarsson_b1_600for Boston, a three on two, or a breakaway, the Blackhawks always had someone coming back on defense to breakup or disrupt Boston’s chance with great back-checking. The speed of guys like Leddy, Keith, Oduya, Hossa, Saad, Toews, and even Hjalmarsson was very evident last night on the defensive end and gave Boston’s offense a lot of problems.

Depth is always a key factor in winning the Stanley Cup. The Blackhawks and Bruins have prided themselves on their depth throughout the season, but last night proved that Chicago has more of it. Boston’s “depth” players of Peverley, Kelly, Thornton, etc. did not do a whole lot offensively last night. Quite frankly, they haven’t done a whole lot the whole postseason. As for Chicago, they got 3 goals from their third line last night. Bolland and 170400482_slideSaad both scored their first goals of the postseason, and Andrew Shaw got his fifth with the game-winner. That third line was probably the best line for the Hawks in Game 1, which is exactly what they’ll need moving forward. I’m not saying that those guys need to be the best line every night, but when you’re top lines are being held scoreless, you need your bottom two lines to step up and score. That’s how the Blackhawks have been so successful all season long. The fourth line was real good too I thought. Bollig, who was inserted into the lineup for the first time since round 1, was very good. He had 9 hits in just 14 minutes of playing time and was smart when he had the puck. Kruger was 54% at the dot and was again big on the PK in overtime. Frolik had a bit of an off night, but still was effective on a couple of shifts in which the fourth line put sustained offensive pressure on the Bruins. Game 1 proved to me that the Blackhawks have the better depth in this series, which is very important.

Both goalies were good last night, but Corey Crawford was outstanding. He made a countless number of game-saving saves in the third period and all 3 overtimes. I have more confidence in him right now than I ever have. Tuukka Rask played well, but didn’t have to make nearly as many huge saves as Crawford. All the hype about Tuukka Rask leading into this series went out the door last night if you ask me. The guy is good, but he’s not God like many people made him sound.

Special teams played a big factor in Game 1. The Blackhawks had an extended 5 on 3 in the second period and only managed to get one shot on goal. That is unacceptable. They were 0-3 on the power play in total. Boston, meanwhile, got a power play early in the third to give themselves a 2-goal lead. They were 1-3 on the night with the man advantage, and 0-2 in overtime. I said it before the series that one power play goal could be the difference as to who wins the Cup and who doesn’t. Last night, I was proven wrong as Boston got what looked to be a game-clinching PP goal. They went on to surrender their 2-goal lead in the third and obviously lost in triple OT. The Blackhawks’ penalty kill did give up that big goal in the third, but they then stepped up and went 2-2 in the overtime periods to keep the game at a tie. Call it a wash in Game 1 between Boston’s specialty teams and Chicago’s if you want, but they are going to continue playing a big part in this series.

Turnovers are already playing a big part between these two teams. Look no further than Torey Krug’s giveaway at his own blue line that led to Dave Bolland’s goal in the third. Tuukka Rask called it a “horrible turnover” after the game and said that those plays cannot happen. He’s right. The Blackhawks turned the puck over as well last night, but none of them directly resulted in a goal for Boston. They can’t expect that trend to continue.

A couple areas that people thought Boston would kill Chicago were hits and faceoffs. The hit totals last night actually favored the Blackhawks. They outhit the Bruins 61-59 and proved that they can be a physical team. Faceoffs, which most people thought Boston would dominate, were 58-56 for the Bruins. Yes, they won more than they lost, but only by 2. That is an encouraging sign for the Blackhawks is they can keep that up.

Shot totals were relatively close as the Blackhawks outshot Boston 63-54. However, the Blackhawks directed a total of 132 shots towards Tuukka Rask, while Boston directed 85 at 170403475_slideCrawford. That is a very disturbing stat if you are a Bruins fan or player. Chicago dominated in offensive zone play and demonstrated their ability to get shots off at will, regardless of Boston’s defense. Another startling stat for Boston is the fact that the Jonathan Toews line for the Blackhawks directed over 40 shots toward the net during 5 on 5 play, while Boston’s top line only had about 15. Yes, 2 of those 15 were goals by Lucic, but you could make the case that Chicago’s top line can and could shut down Boston’s over the course of this series.

170403372_slideAnyone who didn’t watch the NHL on a regular basis before watching Game 1 probably thought Zdeno Chara was the best defenseman in NHL history with all the hype he was getting. Yes, he is very good, but he isn’t going to single-handedly shut down the Blackhawks’ offense! The hype he has been getting since Boston won the Eastern Conference is sickening and way too much. He was alright last night, but not great like so many were saying he would be.

There are two ways of looking at Game 1. For Boston, you could say that they played a pretty good game and hung with the Hawks on Chicago’s home ice, but lost in triple overtime. In other words, the Bruins were one bounce away from winning that game. From the Chicago perspective, you can say that you played a not so good first half of the game, and even most of the three overtimes, but you still won. You withstood Boston’s game, which was a good one for the most part, and battled back from a 2-goal, third period deficit to win the game in a third overtime period.

As the series progresses, I’m sure there will be more and more to talk about. But for now, these are the telling stories from Game 1. History has proven that the winner of Game 1 of the Stanley Cup goes on to win the series over 70% of the time. Take that as you would like, but it’s a telling stat. Game 2 will be a big one.