Bruins shut out Blackhawks 2-0; take 2-1 series lead
Before the puck even dropped to start the game, an unpleasant surprise happened for the Blackhawks: winger Marian Hossa was a last-minute scratch when he was injured during warmups. Rookie Ben Smith filled his spot on the roster, and Coach Joel Quenneville started his line shake-ups early, looking for some fresh chemistry against the Bruins.
The problems that have plagued Chicago this series are not new; some of them stretch back over the past two seasons. The team struggling to enter the offensive zone on power plays is a big one. They also continue to lack any net-front presence, not really forcing the opposing goalie to work for the big saves and early dirty goals. Individually, these problems are nuisances that have become glaringly apparent as the team has become increasingly impotent in the playoffs.
For the first time this series, the winning team put in the first goal; once again, it was Daniel Paille, getting on the board 2:13 into the second. Patrice Bergeron would follow with a power play goal at 14:05 in the same period.
Tuukka Rask didn't really need to stand on his head this game; the Blackhawks weren't exactly making things difficult for him. The majority of shots on goal were from the outside; the ones that weren't, Rask could see coming the whole way.
Chicago needs to change what they're doing if they hope to turn the tide in this series. The steadily decreasing ability of the Blackhawks to win a faceoff is becoming laughable. The power play is so bad, the team should just turn them down. They're not managing much sustained pressure against the Bruins, and they're allowing Boston to keep them on the perimeter. Oddly enough, when the game gets desperate, in the final two minutes, the Blackhawks manage to sustain pressure in the Bruins' end.
Here's the strange thing: the Blackhawks don't seem to practice power play zone entry much in practices. If you know your team is bad at power plays - and has been now, for longer than this season - wouldn't that become a pretty high priority?
Dave Bolland had another particularly brutal game, taking three penalties tonight, two in the second and one in the third; Boston converted on one of them.
Jonathan Toews has been nullified for four series. In the past three series, he - and the team - manage to overcome that. Can they manage to do that this series?
Corey Crawford has been doing everything he can to keep his team in it, but he hasn't managed a shut out yet. He's doing all he can, short of scoring goals. Boston has determined a weak spot and has been exploiting it.
On the other end, Tuukka Rask continues his near-unstoppable campaign for Conn Smythe. He stole game 2 for them and is having the kind of playoffs that will likely land him starting goalie duty for Team Finland next year in the Olympics. If the Blackhawks don't start making life miserable for him and sustaining pressure in the offensive zone again, this is going to be a very short series.
The Blackhawks are playing as if this series will go seven games. But if their play doesn't improve in a hurry, this series won't go past five.