Tonight, 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 of 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 get 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.