It was a heartbreaking Game 2 finish Saturday night for Chicago after Daniel Paille netted one past Corey Crawford in overtime to even up the series 1 – 1. Now the contenders are in Boston for Game 3 and the Blackhawks know they have to be better.
“I thought we came out well in the first,” said Brent Seabrook. “We’ve got to continue to play like that.”
Seabrook is exactly right: Chicago outshot Boston 19 – 4 after 20 minutes at the United Center, including a Patrick Sharp goal and a disallowed Marian Hossa chance. Then again, the Hawks have consistently come out hard in the first period this postseason, but they tend to lose it somewhere in the second period. After attacking Rask in the first, the Hawks only registered only 4 shots in the second period, allowing Boston enough zone time to even up the score at 1 – 1.
Perhaps it’s the rest between periods or too much confidence. Still, the Blackhawks need to perform much better in the faceoff circle. Yet again, Boston held the edge in that category in Game 2. That was the idea behind acquiring Michal Handzus before the trade deadline: faceoff wins. He was the only Hawk that had a positive faceoff win percentage in Game 2 (excepting Brandon Saad, who won his only faceoff of the night). Jonathan Toews and David Bolland went a combined 14 – 20 on the night.
Corey Crawford has been the most consistent player for Chicago, matching Rask at nearly every turn (hence the overtimes). He has allowed 5 goals in this series, earning him a 2.50 GAA and a .939 series save percentage, but that’s not the whole story. With Crawford, it never really seems to be.
After a disappointing first-round exit last season, much of the blame was placed on Crawford’s shoulders. He had let in several soft goals in overtime and perhaps he got more blame than deserved. Maybe it was spot-on. Either way, he has been magnificent for Chicago all season and into the Stanley Cup Playoffs. After 19 games, he holds a league postseason-best 1.72 GAA and ranks second only behind Tuukka Rask with a .935 save percentage. More than this, he has shown his ability to take away lanes from the shooter and flash his glove with a big save. He is the anchor for Chicago and the rest of the team must follow his lead if they want to take home their second Cup in 4 years.
Perhaps a troubling statistic for Chicago, the Blackhawks have not won a Game 3 in this postseason and are going into TD Garden knowing that Boston has won 5 straight games there. The energy will be electrifying and Chicago must stick to its fast-paced game because it suits them well. The first period is, as it has been, all-important for Chicago. Tone must be set and pace must be well-established. Oddly enough, the first goal doesn’t seem to be the most important in this series (feels very strange to even think that!). The first goal in each of the first two games have been scored by the eventual loser. Could be something; could be nothing.
Chicago Blackhawks Head Coach Joel Quenneville revealed today that Viktor Stalberg would replace Brandon Bollig in the lineup for Monday night’s contest in Boston. Stalberg was benched for the second time this postseason for a lack of productivity on the scoresheet late last week.