Blackhawks hope to regain momentum – and keep it
BOSTON -- The Chicago Blackhawks and Boston Bruins each have one win and five goals after playing nearly 186 minutes of hockey in the Stanley Cup Final. They've played enough minutes to fulfill three games and yet the series is as close on paper as Jaromir Jagr was to scoring early in overtime on Saturday night.
To further the metaphor, both teams are a proverbial puck off the crossbar away from owning a 2-0 lead going into Game 3 on Monday at TD Garden (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS). In reality, the Bruins are actually a Zdeno Chara shot off the post away from having the Blackhawks close to the brink.
They don't. That's hockey, or so they say.
"If you have a bad heart, you might not watch the game because you might get a heart attack," Jagr said. "For young people, you know it's exciting to watch. Old people, don't watch it because you might die just watching it."
Those who are watching -- young or old -- also know that despite the way this series has unfolded through two games at United Center, it's clearer than a brand new pane of Plexiglass that the Bruins and Blackhawks can barely hold on when the other team has momentum on its side.
Chicago played its game to a T in the first period of Game 2 and as a result the Bruins weren't even close, except on the scoreboard, down 1-0.
Boston started to muck and grind in the second period, and for the last 53:48 the Blackhawks struggled to find even a sliver of open ice or a transition pass that turned into a bona fide scoring chance.
The question for the Blackhawks now that they're back on the road for the first time since winning Game 4 of the Western Conference Final in Los Angeles is how do they avoid falling into a similar trap on enemy ice? Or, better yet, is there any way for them to sustain their speed and transition game against the physically imposing and structurally-sound, neutral-zone clogging Bruins for a long enough stretch to make it matter on the scoreboard?
It's something they must figure out or the momentum swing that went against them in Game 2 could very well happen again in Game 3.
"Listen, they're in the Stanley Cup Final for a reason; it's not like you're going to have the momentum or dominate a full three periods," Blackhawks right wing Patrick Kane said Sunday evening, shortly after the team landed in Boston. "Obviously you'd love that. We know momentum is huge in the playoffs, you want to keep it as long as you can. When you let the other team have it, you want to get it back as quick as possible. That's something we'll try to do."
It's not like they don't know how to do it.
"The main thing is to always keep it simple," Kane said. "If you can do that, usually you can take away some of their momentum."
Simple sounds so simple. What does that mean?
"We've got to know against this team that trying to make plays could lead to trouble," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "I think the simpler we play it, the more of a direct approach, it can play in our favor. I thought we were standing still too much [after the first period in Game 2] and on the receiving end because we weren't attacking."
So the Blackhawks want to keep it simple and attack, which basically means they want to play their style.
Seems so simple -- but it's not because the Bruins are so good at ruining what the opposition wants to do. Just ask the Pittsburgh Penguins, who also wanted to play a speed and transition game against the Bruins but managed two goals and zero wins in four games.
The Blackhawks may have felt like the Penguins over the final 53:48 of Game 2.
"I guess that's something we're learning as we go," Kane said. "Especially in a series like this, with a team you haven't seen all year, you don't really know much about [them] until you do play these games."
After more than 186 minutes of hockey, the Blackhawks feel they now know all about the Bruins, including how to beat them -- something the Penguins could not do.
Now it's up to the Blackhawks to figure out how to sustain their winning brand of hockey for 60 minutes Monday night. The series won't look so close anymore if they do. They may not even need overtime, either.
"We just need to stick with our speed," Blackhawks left wing Bryan Bickell told NHL.com. "When we bring our speed, keep our feet moving and support each other, we're a good team. When we're standing around and waiting for plays to happen we get away from our game. We need to have that mindset to keep our speed.
"I definitely think we can do it," he continued. "We can't let the foot off the throttle. We know those swings in momentum effect winning and losing."