By Steve Silverman-
(CBS) — This time there was no early pressure by the Chicago Blackhawks, and little evidence of the speed and skill advantage that Joel Quenneville’s team relies on to earn an advantage over most opponents.
The Blackhawks went into Boston in Game 3 with the idea of taking back home-ice advantage. But the Bruins were not about to go along with that plan.
They outskated, outshot, and outworked the Blackhawks; and came away with a relatively easy 2-0 victory. The Bruins have a 2-1 advantage in the series, and appear to have completely recovered from the triple overtime defeat they suffered in Game 1 in Chicago.
There were several aspects to this game that had to trouble Quenneville, but the Blackhawks were simply unable to compete in the faceoff circle. Patrice Bergeron, the best faceoff man in the league, was simply at the top of his game in this game. He won 24-of-28 faceoffs for an astounding 86 percent success ratio.
Bergeron picked on everyone. He won 8-of-10 face-offs from Jonathan Toews, 8-of-8 from Michal Handzus and 4-of-5 from Marcus Kruger.
Bergeron also scored a power play goal in the second period, about 12 minutes after Daniel Paille scored to give the Bruins a 1-0 lead.
Prior to the start of the game, the Blackhawks realized they were going to have to play without Marian Hossa as a result of what Quenneville described as an upper-body injury. Backup Ben Smith, who did not even participate in the warm-ups, took Hossa’s spot in the lineup.
It seemed that the Blackhawks could not match the Bruins in terms of energy or direction. Quenneville said his team made things much too easy for Rask, who recorded his third shutout of the postseason.
“We didn’t put enough pressure on him,” said Quenneville. “I actually thought we started the game fairly well and we also did a decent job in the third period. However, when they got their first goal we lost a lot of momentum. We didn’t rebound from that the way we would have liked to.”
While Hossa couldn’t play, the Blackhawks certainly had plenty of firepower remaining in the lineup. Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp, Bryan Bickell, Andrew Shaw, Duncan Keith, and Brent Seabrook were all on the ice; but they rarely did anything that threatened Rask until the final desperate moments.
That’s not the way the Blackhawks have played all year. They have overcome injuries and adversity, but in Game 3 they seemed to accept their fate much too easily.
They rarely showed the fight that they had in Game 1, and for most of Game 2. There was an inevitability about Game 3 that the Blackhawks were much too willing to accept.
The Blackhawks did not see the game the same way. Toews said that he thought his team hustled and played hard, but the only thing missing was the goals.
He might change his opinion when he sits through the video session Tuesday.
Game 3 has not been kind to the Blackhawks in the postseason. They have been defeated in Game 3 four straight times this year and seven straight times dating back to the 2010 Stanley Cup Final.
In that appearance, the Blackhawks were able to defeat the Philadelphia Flyer in six games. The Blackhawks could repeat that result if they can reel off three straight wins.
However, mathematical possibilities have little to do with the way the team is playing. The Blackhawks have been blanked for the last 122:26 since Sharp scored in the first period of Game 2.
The dynamic offense is stuck in neutral and they must figure out a way to end those struggles, or they will find themselves in critical condition at the end of play Wednesday night.
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.