By Steve Silverman
(CBS) — The Bruins bounced back from a tough overtime loss to win Game 2.
The Blackhawks have more than enough experience and veteran leadership to bounce back and hold their own with the Bruins throughout the remainder of the Stanley Cup Final.
Prior to the start of the series Wednesday night, most observers saw the Blackhawks-Bruins matchup as one that should go six or seven games. Nothing that has been on display in the first two games of the series should change those estimations.
However, when the series shifts to the TD Garden in Boston Monday night, the Blackhawks need to know that the Bruins are likely to have a bit of a personality shift on their home ice.
They are not called, the Big, Bad Bruins for nothing. The Bruins are not a dirty team, but they are big and strong and like to hit hard. They play best when they get mean.
That factor allowed them to crawl back into Game 2 after they were nearly run out of the United Center in the first 20 minutes.
The Bruins missed their wakeup call and they saw the Blackhawks launch 30 shots at the Boston net in the first period. Nineteen of those shots made it on goal and Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask shunted aside 18 of them.
After the Bruins realized they had better play hockey and not just watch it, they picked up their skating in the second period and increased their pace from that point forward.
A tying goal in the second period by Chris Kelly and a far post snipe by Daniel Paille in overtime gave the Bruins the win and squared the series.
An earlier wake-up call will allow Boston to dictate the pace on home ice. Look for players like Milan Lucic, Adam McQuaid, Johnny Boychuk and Zdeno Chara to pick up the physical game on home ice.
But that doesn’t mean the Bruins are about to take over the series. The Blackhawks know how to play on the road and frustrate a team that has dominated at home. Just think back to Game 4 of the Western Conference Final when the Blackhawks took over in the third period and pinned a 3-2 loss on the Los Angeles Kings.
The Kings had not lost on home in the playoffs prior to that game.
The Bruins have lost on home ice, having been defeated by the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Blackhawks certainly have more speed, grit and talent than the Leafs, and they can stand up to the Bruins.
If Boston had the better of play in the latter half of Game 2, it could be because the Blackhawks spent most of their energy in the first half of the game. That’s often a function of starting a game with high energy at home after coming off a momentum-building win.
This time it’s Boston’s turn to follow that formula. The Bruins should be the team with heavy energy early and the Blackhawks are going to have to find a way to withstand it.
That could play right into the Blackhawks’ hands. The Bruins are a solid offensive team, but they are not the Pittsburgh Penguins. They don’t have overwhelming superstars who regularly fill the net. They are more likely to get two or three goals.
So if Corey Crawford is up to the task, as he has been so often in the postseason, the Blackhawks should be the team within a goal after a period.
Then the psychological edge could go to the Blackhawks, who will need a win in Boston if they are going to win their second Stanley Cup championship in for seasons.
They will be facing an ornery team with a purpose, but don’t think for a second that the Blackhawks are not built to stand up to that kind of opponent.
Steve Silverman is an award-winning writer, covering sports since 1980. Silverman was with Pro Football Weekly for 10 years and his byline has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Playboy, NFL.com and The Sporting News. He is the author of four books, including Who’s Better, Who’s Best in Football — The Top 60 Players of All-Time. Follow him on Twitter (@profootballboy) and read more of his CBS Chicago columns here.