By Steve Silverman-
(CBS) Great teams often get a lift when they return home from a road trip.
In the case of the Boston Bruins, they should be on a high after rebounding from a disastrous first period in Game 2 and somehow finding a way to blunt the Blackhawks’ momentum and even the series with a 2-1 overtime victory.
The Bruin will likely come out with first-period energy in Game 3, but it’s not likely to result in a deluge of goals by the home team.
The Bruins are skilled and can score clutch goals, but when they are at the top of their game, they are limiting their opponents’ goal-scoring chances.
Particularly when they play at home. Boston is 7-2 in games at TD Garden and they have reeled off six straight home wins.
They have held opponents to two goals or less in seven of those games. The Toronto Maple Leafs scored four goals twice at the TD Garden in the opening round of the playoffs, but the Bruins shut down the New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins in five consecutive home games.
The Rangers struggled to find a consistent offense throughout the series and that’s probably the biggest reason that John Tortorella was fired just days after his team was eliminated by the Bruins in the conference semifinal round. It was not a surprise to hold that team down.
However, the Penguins were the highest scoring team in the league and the dominant offensive team in the postseason (4.27 goals per game) before they faced the Bruins. Pittsburgh scored one goal in two games in Boston.
The Bruins tend to shut down opponents in Boston when they are playing their best hockey. Certainly, the Blackhawks are going to challenge that ability because they move the puck so well and can create their own scoring opportunities, but the Bruins have a knack for blocking shots and punishing opponents with crushing hits.
The Bruins put their hitting game on display in Game 2, registering 50 hits in the game and outhitting the Blackhawks by 16. At one point in the game, the Bruins’ margin in that category was 39-13.
That is largely due to the presence of Milan Lucic, Adam McQuaid and Johnny Boychuk. These three are all huge and aggressive men who will do anything to limit the Blackhawks’ from launching their puck-possession game.
The Blackhawks have the ability to counter the Bruins’ hitting with speed. That’s how the Maple Leafs played the Bruins in Boston, and they won two games at the Garden and had a clear advantage in the third until the Bruins hit them with a miracle rally in the seventh game that has reached legendary status.
In that series, former Bruin Phil Kessel tormented his old team with his speed and ability to get to loose pucks in the scoring area. It’s a role that Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa and Patrick Kane are well-suited to take over.
The Bruins can skate, but not like the Blackhawks. They don’t want to get in a track meet with the Blackhawks and turn the game into an up-and-down skating match because they are simply not as fast.
The Bruins will try to turn it into a grinding game, with body checks as their calling card.
They have been successful at that at home in the postseason. The Blackhawks must show they can stand up to the pounding in the beginning of the game and then use their quick skating and accurate passing to get the Bruins off stride.
If they can do that, the Blackhawks could take back the home-ice advantage that they lost in Game 2.
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.