For most of the playoffs, Boston goaltender Tuukka Rask has had to bail his team out of a lot of tough situations and steal a few games for the Bruins. This was not one of those games. He did make 28 saves to earn his third shutout of the post-season, but Chicago's offense was basically non-existent last night. The Hawks had possession of the puck for the majority of the game and had an advantage in shot attempts, but not many of them were threatening. The Blackhawks had to play this game without one of their best forwards in Marian Hossa, but even without him they should have been able to produce more than eight scoring chances at even strength. That kind of offensive production is just woeful even against a solid defensive team like the Bruins. Couple that with the Hawks having an atrocious special teams performance and the Bruins got themselves a fairly easy win to take a 2-1 series lead.
This was a very sloppy game, as both teams looked pretty out of sync and were having a lot of difficulty controlling the puck in the bad ice conditions. As a result, this was a fairly low-event game with neither team creating that much offense. Although, the Hawks have much more than the bad ice to blame for their performance last night since this was just an ugly performance all-around.
Stanley Cup Finals Game 3
Chicago's minimal production at even strength was obviously a problem, but they did have the puck a lot more than the Bruins and were struggling to create chances. They didn't have much of a problem with getting to the scoring areas, but they were not hitting the net on most of their opportunities and the Bruins also did a fine job of breaking up most of their chances or getting in the way of them. I don't think this is anything for Chicago to panic over, but their special teams play is another story.
Boston dominated in this matchup and it's mostly because the Hawks power play could not get anything going. They generated only one scoring chance in over eight minutes of power play time and gave up a shorthanded chance to the Bruins on top of that. Most team's power play woes come from not being able to find the back of the net, but Chicago's is just bad on all levels. For a team that normally passes the puck better than most clubs, they sure do have a lot of trouble creating space when playing up a man. I don't know if it's the system (I noticed that they try to force shots from the point rather than move the puck around) or just bad execution, but it might end up being the deciding factor in this series if it continues to be this bad. The Bruins getting a power play goal of their own tonight didn't help either.
Blackhawks Individual Scoring Chances
Best EV Forward: Bryan Bickell +2
Worst EV Forwards: Patrick Sharp, Brandon Saad & Michal Handzus -4
Best EV Defenseman: Niklas Hjalmarsson +1
Worst EV Defenseman: Nick Leddy -4
Hossa being out of the lineup meant that Quinneville had to shake up his forward lines a little and he certainly thought outside of the box with some of these combinations. That or just picked wingers out of a hat and set his lines that way, because I would believe that. Why else would fourth liners like Michael Frolik and Marcus Kruger be playing on the Toews' line while Bryan Bickell, who has eight goals this post-season, was stuck on the fourth line. Placing Patrick Sharp on Dave Bolland's line was also a head-scratcher and so was bumping Brandon Saad off Toews' line.
I don't know if Quinneville is doing this to keep one of his top forwards away from Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron, but the strategy backfired miserably. Toews managed to come out okay in a head-to-head matchup against Chara while not producing much offense while the rest of the top-nine did horrible. The poor play of Chicago's second and third line centers didn't help matters as both Handzus and Bolland were awful in all both ends of the rink. It's impressive that they got outplayed this badly considering they had Kane & Sharp on their wings respectively. I expect Chicago to roll some different lines even if Hossa doesn't return by Game 4 because what they did last night clearly wasn't working at all.
Bruins Individual Scoring Chances
Best EV Forwards: Patrice Bergeron & Brad Marchand +4
Worst EV Forward: Nathan Horton -2
Best EV Defensemen: Torey Krug & Adam McQuaid +4
Worst EV Defenseman: Johnny Boychuk -1
Rask may have goten the shutout but this game was all about Patrice Bergeron and Zdeno Chara. Both of them got the tough matchups last night and dominated Chicago's top two lines. Bergeron's performance against Patrick Kane's line being the most impressive. A lot of Chicago's offensive struggles were due to their own shortcomings, but Bergeron and Chara definitely forced the issue on multiple occasions. Bergeron's line has been so good at controlling territorial play at controlling territorial play and Chara has easily been the Bruins best defensive player when taking his minutes & playing situation into account. If it were not for Rask, these two would be the early favorites to take home the Conn Smythe Trophy.
Bergeron was probably the Bruins best player, but the performance of his linemates shouldn't be forgotten either, as Jaromir Jagr had a very strong game with an assist on the Bruins power play goal. He has done just about everything but score for the Bruins in this post-season. The Paille-Kelly-Seguin line also continued to play well by producing the Bruins only even strength goal and a few other chances. Their defensive play was also very impressive in addition to that. Krejci's line has been pretty underwhelming, so the fact that the rest of the Bruins top-nine is stepping up is pretty important.
Speaking of Bruins depth players stepping up, Torey Krug & Adam McQuaid thrived while playing on home ice last night and they seem to enjoy getting the favorable matchups after a couple of rough moments in the first two games.
Head-to-Head at Five-on-Five
Handzus and Bolland's lines were not good. At all. Bolland seems to be more of a problem than Handzus since he was getting run over by the Bruins third line, but Handzus is far from an idea second line center and I'm surprised Chicago has stuck with him this long. The Bruins have talented enough forwards to keep up with him and shut him down even if Kane is playing on his wing. Chicago has solid forward depth even without Hossa, but their centers have been struggling mightily and that brings all of their lines down. Keeping Both Handzus and Bolland in top-nine roles while they were playing poorly didn't help matters.
|2||BOS||17:43||Paille – GOAL||36||10||28||8||32||50||19||23||20||47||54||40||5v5|
|2||BOS||5:55||Bergeron – GOAL||19||36||7||27||50||19||37||68||17||33||40||4v5|