By Steve Silverman-
UNITED CENTER (CBS) The Chicago Blackhawks were at the top of their game in the first period of Game of the Stanley Cup Finals.
They showed of their speed, skill and playmaking. The Boston Bruins did not look like they belonged on the United Center ice with the Blackhawks.
However, Joel Quenneville’s team had one problem when the first period was over. Even though they had outshot the Bruins 19-4 and made them look like a team of amateurs, they had just a 1-0 lead.
You could see the worry on Quenneville’s face in the final minutes of the period. He had been through this too many times in his career.
“We did everything right in that first part of the game,” Quenneville said. “We had some good looks. We did what we wanted to. But it’s a long game.”
A hot start does not always mean that a victory is around the corner. Having a territorial edge in play is nice, but if it’s not accompanied by a slew of goals, the game is up for grabs.
The Bruins were outshot and outplayed, but this time their goalie stood on his proverbial head and shut down the Blackhawks. He gave up a goal to Patrick Sharp at the 11:22 mark of the first period, but the Blackhawks would not put another goal by him the rest of the way.
Once the game got to the second period, Chicago was no longer taking it to Boston. Much of that was due to the Bruins’ physical play. They were using their big bodies to wear down the Blackhawks and slow them down.
The Blackhawks were still getting the better of the play, but it was by a much smaller margin. The Bruins, unable to complete two passes in a row throughout the first 20 minutes, were slowly finding their own game. They put some pressure on Corey Crawford, and when Chris Kelly tied the game at the 14:58 mark of the second period, all the Blackhawks’ early work had been for nothing.
The third period and overtime belonged to the Bruins. The Blackhawks could only put 15 more shots on goal after their first period dominance. They had brief periods where they controlled the puck in the Bruins’ zone, but they were not able to put many more difficult chances on Rask the rest of the way.
“I thought we slowed ourselves down,” Quenneville said. “I don’t think we got the puck behind them after the first period. I think that played into their hands.”
While the Blackhawks’ role players had distinguished themselves in the first game, the Bruins’ role players took the upper hand this time.
The best of them was Daniel Paille. He assisted on Kelly’s tying goal and he scored the winner at the 13:48 mark of the first overtime.
Paille took a perfect pass from Tyler Seguin and rang one in off the far post past the outstretched glove of Corey Crawford.
The Bruins took home a 2-1 win and the series was on its way to Boston with the two teams even at 1-1.
On the surface, the Blackhawks should be able to give a good account of themselves in Boston. They don’t have to dominate at TD Garden, they just have to win one of two games to regain home-ice advantage in the series.
They demonstrated clearly and convincingly that they are the faster and more skilled team. However, despite all that skill, they could not finish all their opportunities against the Bruins.
One of the reasons for that is their disastrous power play. Chicago failed to cash in on three power play chances.
This trend has dogged them throughout the postseason. They have scored on just 7-of-57 power play opportunities.
But the Blackhawks will have another problem when they go to Boston. The Bruins were able to slow down the Chicago offense by using their size and strength to put some fear in the hosts.
Whether they admit it or not, the Bruins’ body checking took something out of the Blackhawks. They are likely to play just as tough when they get home.
The Blackhawks can defeat the Bruins’ physical edge by sustaining their speed and burying their chances.
They can’t let the Bruins off the hook in Boston.
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.