Well, as the Blackhawks have not won a third game in any playoff series this year, perhaps this loss in the series against the Bruins shouldn’t come as such a crushing blow.
Whatever. We can all be a little defeated about this defeat in Boston.
The game was rough, to say the least. The Blackhawks were, apparently, never destined to have that third game win in this Stanley Cup playoff. Though our spirits were lifted knowing that Stalberg would be rejoining the team, spirits were crushed with the last minute scratch of Marian Hossa, the crown jewel of the Chicago Blackhawks offense and the leading scorer this season. This isn’t to say the Blackhawks didn’t stand a chance without Hossa, but it didn’t help.
The Blackhawks can recover from this, obviously. When the chips were down against the Detroit Red Wings, the Blackhawks rallied to win three games in a row and move onto play and defeat the former Stanley Cup champions, the Los Angeles Kings. However, the Boston Bruins are not the Red Wings. Though the games against Detroit were long, intense, and full of adrenaline and excitement, the Boston Bruins are far more disciplined and focused. Before facing the Blackhawks in the Stanley Cup finals, they shut down the Penguins, who were the second highest scoring team in the NHL (coming in second to the Blackhawks). They also know how to play great defense. The Bruins had the Blackhawks shooting from the perimeter which made goalie Tuukka Rask’s job incredibly easy. Rask’s shut out last night resulted in his deflecting twenty eight shots; whereas Corey Crawford had thirty-three saves, two goals still went in and allowed Boston to win the game.
Rask cannot be taken lightly by the Blackhawks. Though Boston’s defense is strong, it is Rask that is looking more and more impenetrable. Rask makes Jonathan Quick look sloppy. In four games against the Penguins, the then second highest scoring team in the NHL, Rask allowed two goals. In the five game series against the Rangers, Rask allowed five goals. In every series, Rask is gaining strength and precision and getting better and better as he learns how each team operates and adapts to their style in order to keep them from winning. His shut outs should be no surprise; his talent and attention to detail keep him on top of his game when it is most crucial. His hockey talent is so astounding, he should be recruited by Professor X.
The Bruins themselves aren’t the only obstacle in the way of the Blackhawks. The Blackhawks are a major obstacle for the Blackhawks. Hossa being out of Game Three was a crushing blow to the team as was the clearly injured Toews who was seen icing his hand when he wasn’t on the ice, but the Blackhawks’ inability to take advantage of power plays and win face-offs is not helping them win any games. Game Three against the Bruins saw the Blackhawks win a mere 29% of their face-offs. Allowing the Bruins to gain control of the puck in 71% of the face-offs is unacceptable.
The power play statistics are just as abysmal, if not just flat out worse. In this current series the Blackhawks are 0-9 in power plays. In the playoffs as a whole they are 7-60. Clearly power plays are the Blackhawks’ Achilles’ heel. At the press conference after the game, Joel Quenneville said, “Our power play tonight was definitely not good.” Good call, coach.
Though the shut out game was a real slap in the pride for the Blackhawks and for Chicago, one thing kept us all clapping and cheering for the Blackhawks at the end: a melee in front of Rask’s goal net. Chara used the last ten seconds to pick a fight with Bickell, and that’s when Andrew Shaw and Brad Marchand decided it was time to finally get to the fight they had been wanting to have the entire night. Where we all know that fights lead to penalties which lead to power plays, in that last ten seconds, if you were very quiet, you could hear Chicago cheering and yelling, “Beat the hell out of him, Shaw!” Of course, you could not have possibly been quiet enough to hear it because, admit it, you were screaming it too.
That game was awful. The Blackhawks got shut out. It was the ugliest of the ugly games. Hell, let’s look at Shaw beating up Marchand again.
The last ten seconds were just completely nuts.
So, the Blackhawks are down but they are not out. Never bet against a Chicago team when the odds are against them because that is when Chicago shines (okay, except the Cubs, but that’s a different story). The Blackhawks tend to not only come back from a mighty fall, they rise from it like a phoenix and burn through any obstacle that stands in their way. When it looked like they were going to lose against Detroit, they punched through everything and moved on. If they can focus on finding the weak link in Rask’s armor and build up their face off and power play wins, then the Stanley Cup is Chicago’s.
With the last few games coming up, and hockey ending until this fall, it’s time to show your love for the Blackhawks. If you’re going to show your love for someone, it’s gotta be that Andrew Shaw who has not only stepped up to be a crucial closer in the playoffs but is also the scrappiest little guy on the ice. Get this Andrew Shaw shirt at one of our stores or online at http://www.clarkstreetsports.com. Commit to the Indian, Chicago!