What doesn’t Chicago Blackhawks’ coach Joel Quenneville get?
What the Boston Bruins are doing isn’t rocket science, and it doesn’t take an MIT Graduate to understand the physics involved in hockey – but Tuukka Rask and the rest of the Bruins are happy to explain it to them.
Coming into Monday night’s game 3, both contests thus far of the Stanley Cup finals have played out pretty much identically so far as pace and momentum are concerned. The Blackhawks come out of the opening faceoff with their teeth on fire, blowing past the plodding Bruins and getting clean looks at Rask – which does them no good at all.
The clear shooting lane allows the Boston netminder to see the puck all the way in – the saves look spectacular but in reality it’s a tweak of the shoulder or a nudge of the stick to send the puck wide, or nothing more difficult that a first Baseman deals with in baseball to glove one that he can’t get his torso on.
The result is a ton of shots, very few actual chances and even fewer goals. Of the five goals that Rask has given up in this series, one was a puck going wide that deflected off of his defenseman’s skate and slithered in behind the shocked Finn, and another as he was pinned beneath his own defenseman in the crease – and yet another, a double deflection off of a knee…
…the other two spinning wristers that Rask now recognizes as a trademark of Chicago and is ready for them, so Monday night’s 2-0 shutout victory for the Bruins in Game 3 of the Cup finals became an inevitability when the Blackhawks came out with the same strategy that netted them very little in the previous two games.
“We ran up against some of the best goalies in the league here,” Quenneville said. “Tonight I thought we made it rather easy on him as far as traffic and finding and seeing pucks.”
Daniel Paille carried over his scoring momentum from the overtime winner in Game 2, finding twine from one knee early in the second period to give Rask all the offense he would need, but Patrice Bergeron made sure with his power play goal later in the same frame, taking a razor sharp pass from Jaromir Jagr across the crease and snapping it in, helping to lift the Bruins to a 2-1 advantage in the series.
Game 4 is scheduled for Wednesday night, also at TD Garden in Boston.
Boston’s Rope-a-dope has worked all post-season. The Bruins gave just enough cushion to the Blackhawks as they invaded the attacking zone to bring the puck into the high slot, but then clogged the middle and forced everything to the wings, resulting in many long range attempts – the ones that make it through the zone defense handled easily by Rask.
On the other end, the Bruins played their standard offense, dumping the puck deep and going after it, making Chicago battle for everything along the boards and after a while, they seemed either too tired or too frustrated to win any of them…
…because that’s what Boston does, gives you a beating on the forecheck, gives you a beating on the backcheck and frustrates you in the neutral zone by trapping the forward entering the attacking zone with the puck, allowing you just enough cushion to burn yourself out skating around trying to find a seam.
In the first round the Maple Leafs recognized it, but ultimately wasn’t conditioned well enough to hang with the Bruins. The Rangers never knew what hit them and the Penguins thought trying to play the Bruins’ brand of hockey would upset their apple cart, but took a savage beating for their arrogance…
…because in the end, the Bruins can play it any way you want it – but you’d better score plenty, because after they take your best shot and wear you down, they kick their game into high gear and you spend the rest of the night being abused by the bigger and stronger bullies from Beantown – taking your milk money and your lunch, along with your home ice advantage and, eventually, the series.
And it really didn’t make much of a difference that star forward Marian Hossa was lifted from the lineup due to an “upper body injury” suffered in the pregame skate, because the Boston defense shut down the attackers by escorting them away from center ice, leaving the defensemen to take the only clear shots left.
So what does Quenneville do differently to break through and send this series back to Chicago a best of three series? The answer is as simple: score goals. Simple to say, that is, but not so easy to accomplish while getting shoved around by the big bad Bruins…