Patrick Kane #88 of the Chicago Blackhawks attempts to control the puck against Jaromir Jagr #68, Brad Marchand #63 and Patrice Bergeron #37 of the Boston Bruins. in Game One of the 2013 NHL Stanley Cup Final at United Center on June 12, 2013 in Chicago, Illinois.
Photograph by: Gregory Shamus, Getty Images
CHICAGO — Claude Julien shrugged off all questions about his Boston Bruins having gone 600 days between games against the Chicago Blackhawks.
We know them, and they know us, was the tone of the coach’s answers. Video, and all that.
But here was the money quote: “Although we haven’t played against each other, I don’t think our game plan is going to change. What you’ve seen us do in the other rounds, we’ll continue to do because it’s worked for us.”
It’s been working for years, so why not? The Bruins, who had not trailed in a game of these playoffs in 18 days, didn’t trail this one until midnight — 113 minutes and eight seconds of playing time after the puck dropped to begin the Stanley Cup Final — when a double-deflection by Dave Bolland and then Andrew Shaw ended the fifth-longest game in final history and gave the Blackhawks an exhausting 4-3 triple-OT victory.
But if the Blackhawks looked as closely at the video as Julien thought, they obviously weren’t looking in the right places.
Because it’s pretty clear what the Bruins are best at — what they did to the Pittsburgh Penguins in their Eastern Conference Final sweep; what they did in the 2011 Stanley Cup Final over the Vancouver Canucks, for that matter. They make their opponents play out of character.
They needled and hammered and hassled the flashy Penguins, who basically lost their minds and stopped playing their own game. They completely cowed the Canucks two springtimes ago.
And when Wednesday night’s Game 1 opened at the Madhouse on Madison, the Blackhawks decided they were going to outpound the pounders.
It was a bad idea, and ought to be abandoned forthwith.
Not that the Hawks didn’t deliver some big hits; they did. Not that Shaw, who’s in the conversation with Bruins’ Brad Marchand among the most annoying rodents in hockey, didn’t get under the skin of Boston’s dour size-XXXL defenceman, Zdeno Chara, by taking repeated runs at him.
“We know he’s an agitator, we know he’s good at embellishing, too, at times,” Julien said of the five-foot-10, 180-pound Shaw. “We know all that stuff. We’ve done our research.”
But the thing is, Shaw is a lightweight next to Marchand, who is built along the lines of a fire hydrant. And no matter how he might try to pound Chara, it’s the proverbial mosquito on a giraffe’s butt. Also, Chicago has nothing like Milan Lucic, who not only is an imposing physical specimen but also scored the first two Boston goals.
So it was important the Blackhawks show that they were not going to let themselves be run out of their own building. It wasn’t so important that they do the running.
Once they figured that out — possibly in the room after the first period — they were a much better hockey club, and Game 1 was a much better spectacle.
Definitely much better than was feared by those who thought the Hawks wouldn’t be able to function against the ornery Bruins.
They began to use their speed and skill, and there was room among the Boston bodies to generate some chances and, by the end of the long night, plenty of them.
Down 3-1 when Patrice Bergeron’s perfect shot found the net over Corey Crawford’s glove 6:09 into the third period, the Hawks clawed back into it, outskating and out-chancing Boston the rest of the way and sending the game to overtime with goals by Dave Bolland — off a dreadful turnover by rookie Torey Krug — and Johnny Oduya, whose point shot went in off defenceman Andrew Ference’s skate.
Overtime was pretty much all Boston, chance after Grade A chance, fluffed by Kaspars Daugavins or fanned on by Lucic or off the goalpost by Chara.
But at midnight and only two minutes and change to go before it surpassed Game 1 in 1990 — the Petr Klima goal for Edmonton, over Boston — as the longest Stanley Cup Final game in history, Hawks defenceman Michal Rozsival ventured a shot from the point through heavy traffic and, two deflections later, the home team finally got its 63rd shot on goal past Bruins’ Tuukka Rask to end it.
“It was a grinding game out there,” said Chicago’s Patrick Sharp.
“It seemed like the third and fourth lines were creating stuff out there and contributing some big goals; none bigger than the one by Shawsy. I think it went off his pants or shin pads but who cares at this point? We’ll take it.”
“It’s never easy to lose a triple-overtime game,” Julien said. “We had some great looks, some great chances and just didn’t bury them, and eventually, somebody’s going to score a goal as fatigue sets in. But I’m not disappointed in our effort.
“Last time we won the Cup, we lost the first two games to Vancouver and it never stopped us from coming back, and this certainly won’t. With a little bit of luck, we could have ended it before they did.
“But that’s the name of the game. They get a good break on their tying goal when it goes off one of our skates. Some nights you get the break going your way, some nights you don’t.”
It had been 95 years since a Boston sports team opened a championship series in Chicago, and that wasn’t too bad, either — Babe Ruth pitching a six-hit, 1-0 shutout in Game 1 of the 1918 World Series for the Red Sox over the Chicago Cubs at Comiskey Park.
But chances are, it was never this loud at old Comiskey.
Even a violent thunderstorm taking place all around Chicago could barely be heard over the crowd noise of 22,110 fans in full throat as the Blackhawks came back to life.
After nearly five hours in skates, the two teams will be glad of the extra day off before Game 2 Saturday.
“I’m probably going to be tired tomorrow,” said Sharp. “Game 5 against the Kings was double-overtime and that took a little time to recover. But there’s no place we’d all rather be than playing hockey in the Stanley Cup Final. So we’ll deal with it.”
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