There’s an entire summer ahead for reflection on how the Chicago dominated the NHL as a whole this year and still found a way to win the Stanley Cup in surprising fashion, so today we’ll focus on Game 6 specifically, and how the Blackhawks snatched victory from the jaws of defeat, and defeat was like “The hell man? I was gonna eat that.”
I’ll get to the fluffier stuff at the bottom, but first, the hockey thoughts.
1. Top-end talent
The Boston Bruins have ample amounts of talent, there’s not really much point denying that. You don’t do what they’ve done over the past few years without it. But there’s also no denying that they are, and have always been, light on elite offensive talent. That doesn’t make them any less of a great team – they’ve always prided themselves on succeeding as a true “team” – but there were times in last night’s contest, particularly in the first, when the Bruins dominated the play but couldn’t quiiite seem to make That Play.
In particular, I thought they had trouble making “spring your teammate” break-in passes. There were a number of occasions when the B’s had a guy who’d beat his check back to the Hawks net to be in all alone, and the guy with the puck couldn’t find a way to get it to him. Good D, yes, but at some point you have to find a way to get that puck across. You only get so many opportunities. Read the rest of this entry »
I already started this post once, but “I disagree with Jonathan Toews’ usage last night” ended up being 600 words and its own post, so let’s try this again.
1. Life for Chicago after Hossa: not hopeless, but awfully bleak
After the game we found out Joel Quenneville knew there was some chance Marian Hossa may take warm-up and call it a day as he did, which makes it awfully bizarre that Ben Smith didn’t warm-up and Jamaal Mayers did, despite the former playing and the latter not. But anyway.
When Hossa’s out it tips the balance of the series to Boston with a reasonably heavy weight. Bold, I know. But he really is one of the league’s best puck possession players (and I mean actual ability to maintain possession, not Corsi), a nasty offensive threat with finishing ability and a big body that’s tough to deal with. In a series so even, with over 60 minutes of overtime played after three games, his absence looms as the potential back-breaker for Chicago. Apparently he’s going to play in Game 4, but if he’s seriously hindered, so are they.
2. Tough, clean hockey
We don’t generally talk about dirty hits in hockey until there is one, and this season there was no shortage. But it came across my inner brain-screen pretty early in the first period: for all the big, cringe-inducing hits in the last few weeks of hockey, players have really reined it in (the cleanliness of said hits, I mean). David Krejci absolutely crushed Jonathan Toews last night, and neither player so much as looked at the other after. Just “Good?” “Good.” “Good.”
Maybe there’s just been less games, or maybe Raffi Torres was eliminated. Both are reasonable options. Whatever the case, it’s been a pleasure to not have to deal with. Read the rest of this entry »
Night one of the Stanley Cup Final did not disappoint, with neither team coming out for so much as a period of “feel the other team out” hockey, instead opting for mutual blitzkriegs that resulted in a dizzying pace. I stayed off the Twitter machine last night (well, comparatively speaking) and took notes on the game so I could hopefully give you a unique takeaway or two. So, without further ado, here are 10 takeaways from last night’s game.
1. Bruins lean on the in-zone escape
I’m not sure if they showed this on the NBC broadcast, but before the game CBC took viewers inside the dressing room for a chunk of both team’s pre-game speeches, which I thought was A) insanely cool and B) surprising. Nothing too crazy-informative was said or anything, but given the nature of the pre-game speech – little reminders of stuff you’ve covered in the past – I thought it was cool hearing Joel Quenneville remind his guys not to over-commit on the backcheck, because Boston likes to pull up and use the trailer off the rush. I watched for it, and boy, do they ever.
There was one play in particular (with about 12:30 on the clock in the second period, I believe) right before Horton took a penalty that Krejci had the puck down by the net and hit a trailer who was probably at center before he gave him a slow spot-pass at the blue for him to skate into. Keep an eye out for it, it’s a common safety valve of the B’s.
2. Chicago’s third line
The Blackhawks third line was naaasty good last night. If the Bruins want Zdeno Chara to maul Jonathan Toews and crew, it’s up to Chicago’s depth players to make some noise, and holy hell did they ever. There was a shift early in the game where Tory Krug and Adam McQuaid got straight punked by the line of Andrew Shaw, David Bolland and Brandon Saad (the latter moved around in the lineup a lot last night). But their energy was infectious from start to finish last night, so it wasn’t surprising to see them score the winner. Read the rest of this entry »