Rask abates swarming Blackhawks, Bruins earn Chicago split


Deep woods repellent and some insect netting.

That’s the equipment that Tuukka Rask should have had in the first period of Saturday night’s Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Finals against the Chicago Blackhawks swarming offense - and well into the second.

Maybe a citronella candle.  Couldn’t hurt.

The Blackhawks pelted the Bruins’ goaltender mercilessly while his defense looked like they were standing around watching, as if in awe of the dynamic Blackhawks’ offense that had Rask completely on the defensive and reduced him to flailing away at pucks like he was brushing away those evil black flies that are indigenous to New England…

…because anyone who has dealt with those things know that once they get in your face, it’s nearly impossible to get rid of them.

“It looked like they had more guys out there than we did,” Rask said after the game, “They were bouncing on every single puck in front of net, had a lot of chances.”

“We definitely played pretty bad.”

And just as Wednesday night’s triple overtime marathon was a game that should have been over in regulation with the Bruins dominating play but making one fatal mistake, the opposite was true on Saturday – Boston had no business being on the winning end of a 2-1 score but thanks to Rask and a quick whistle, the Bruins evened the best of seven series in overtime in Chicago on Saturday night.

The Black flies – er, Blackhawks – were already the faster team, but with the Bruins’ showing no urgency at all for the first 30 minutes of the game, it seemed that every time down the ice was a fast break for Chicago…and once the Hawks got into the slot, they swarmed Rask like he was a big fly feast doing some innocent weed pulling in his garden.

The backcheck had no chance because the Boston defense allowed Chicago’s lightning quick forwards to skate into the attacking zone virtually unopposed, easily setting up their triangle and sliding the puck back and forth with no hindrance whatsoever – patiently waiting for the Boston defense to provide the shooting lane…

…meanwhile, back on the other end Chicago goalie Corey Crawford was having no such issues, just kicking back, watching a hockey game - his defense acting as repellent, only on rare occasion having to deal with that annoying puck, and usually then just to push it to the side so that one of his defensemen could take it behind the net so that the Blackhawks could make a line change, maybe grab a sandwich…

Yet, miraculously, the Blackhawks held only a slim 1-0 lead coming out of the locker room for the second period, the lone Chicago tally part of the swarming infestation that saw Rask face 19 first period shots, many from scrums at point blank range, the only one that found twine a Patrick Sharp wrister from the bottom of the right circle that Rask couldn’t get to because of at least 2 bodies laying on top of him…

…though the ‘Hawks nearly had a second goal on yet another frontal assault, Rask finally falling on the puck.  The referee calling no joy because he had lost sight of the puck and blew his whistle a split second before Blackhawks’ forward Marian Hossa shoved the prone Rask and the puck into the net.

Replays showed the puck had clearly crossed the red line, but under review it was determined that the referee’s whistle had come before the puck reappeared and crossed the plane.

By the time that happened, Julien had seen enough.  Tinkering with his lines to abate the dense blight of Blackhawks that were overwhelming his netminder, Julien moved the previously invisible Tyler Seguin to the third line with Chris Kelly and Daniel Paille – and Seguin responded with an infectious energy that seemed to inspire the team as a whole.

Suddenly, the Blackhawks looked spent – the Bruins team that they were outskating and outshooting by a 5 to1 margin in the first period slowly started to regain their balance, taking over center ice and hitting anything that moved in a red sweater…

…and by the time Kelly knocked in a rebound past the no-longer-vacationing Crawford, it was the Blackhawks back on their heels, desperately holding on for dear life and hoping that they could somehow generate another goal – but they had mustered all of the offense that they could by that point, and it was just a matter of time before Boston would earn their Chicago split and steal home ice from the Western Conference Champions…

…Seguin fighting on the forecheck, gaining possession of the puck and sliding a perfect pass to Paille for the game winner 13:48 into overtime – perhaps helping the Bruins gain an advantage that will lead to their second Stanley Cup in three years.

Now, the series shifts back to Boston for games 3 and 4, with the Bruins having the opportunity to take control of the series by taking care of business on their own ice – with Game six also in Boston should the Bruins allow the series to progress that far…

…and with the Bruins’ depth starting to assert itself – with a timely assist by the genius that is Claude Julien from the bench – all that the Blackhawks can hope for is to somehow win a game at TD Garden and extend the series to seven games, but with the switch flipped back on and the Bruins lighting the lamp, that’s going to be difficult.

As difficult as getting rid of those damnable black flies?  Nothing is as arduous and formidable as that, but if the Bruins play like they did in the final frame and overtime on Saturday night the Blackhawks are going to wish that the pesky gnats were all they had to deal with.

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Tags: Boston Bruins Chicago Blackhawks