Following a grueling pair of overtime battles, the Stanley Cup Finals move to Boston for Game 3 with the Blackhawks and the Bruins tied at one. With ten periods of hockey in the books, there is hardly anything to separate the two recent champions each on the hunt for another title.
Nonetheless, here a are a few things to watch for in Monday night’s Game 3:
Can the Blackhawks maintain their speed for three periods?
The Chicago Blackhawks dominated the first period of Game 2, outshooting their opponents 19-4, and they have their elite team-speed to thank. The lightning-quick Hawks wiped the Bruins off the ice early on Saturday night, getting to every loose puck. Meanwhile, their swirling defense rushed the Bruins into countless giveaways. Had the Blackhawks been able to maintain their pace throughout the game they would be leading the series 2-0 without a doubt. Of course, the Blackhawks slowed throughout the contest, perhaps as a result of playing in their third straight overtime game. If the overworked Blackhawks cannot keep their legs going, they will lose their primary advantage in this series. Without their speed to rely on, the Blackhawks could play directly into the Bruins hands.
Is Boston’s physical style t0o much for the Blackhawks?
As they turned Game 2 around, the Boston Bruins started to hammer their hosts at every opportunity. The Bruins outhit the Blackhawks 50-34 in the game and eventually pulled away as the game headed into overtime. By the time Paille scored the winner, the Bruins had been the better team for nearly three periods, fearlessly pounding their quicker opponents into submission. Milan Lucic and Johnny Boychuk set the tone, combining for 15 hits, and Boston’s forecheck reaped the rewards. Finally able to establish their offense in the corners, Boston set the game to their preferred pace, and at the opposite end Chicago’s pint-sized star Patrick Kane could hardly muster a response. Chicago has plenty of size on their roster, but they will need to play a heavier game to keep-up in Game 3.
Will Boston’s Kelly-Seguin-Paille combination stay hot?
Boston opened the second period with a new look on their third line, combining slumping center Chris Kelly with speedy wingers Tyler Seguin and Daniel Paille. 15 minutes later, Chris Kelly finally nabbed his first point of the postseason with the game-tying goal assisted by Paille. In overtime the trio struck again, with Tyler Seguin feeding Paille for a gorgeous winner that rang in off the post. Last season Kelly reached the 20-goal plateau, and the young Seguin led the Bruins with 29 strikes. This year the two have struggled mightily and currently combine for just two postseason goals. Perhaps joining them together with Paille will finally get them back on track, reestablishing Boston’s scoring depth. Seguin has looked particularly dangerous in the finals and seems certain to beat Corey Crawford eventually. If the trio strikes again in Boston, Chicago could be in trouble.
Can Tuukka Rask and Corey Crawford keep it up?
The reason that both Game 1 and Game 2 required extra time the simultaneous brilliance of Tuukka Rask and Corey Crawford. Crawford’s 77 saves have given his team a chance to win despite Boston’s late control of both games so far. He was especially magnificent in Chicago’s Game 1 comeback halting 29 overtime shots until Andrew Shaw brought relief with his triple-OT winner. Tuukka Rask has been even more impressive at the opposite end making 92 saves in just two games. After dominating the Pittsburgh Penguins in the last round, Rask has found another level in the finals. His excellence was especially apparent in the first period of Game 2, when he made 18 saves to keep the Bruins in it until they finally found their game in the second period. The netminders have emerged as the clear front-runners for the Conn Smythe Trophy, but it is starting to feel like one of these guys is due for a bad game before the series is over.