BOSTON (CBS) — Though the Bruins lost a heartbreaker in Game 1 in triple overtime, they were able to rally in Game 2 to steal home ice from the Blackhawks before the series headed to Boston.
While it was mission accomplished in that sense, both of these teams know the series is a long way from being decided. The winner of tonight’s Game 3, though, will be in the driver’s seat with a 2-1 series lead.
For the Bruins to gain that lead, here are three keys to Game 3.
Milan Lucic, Wrecking Ball
In the days of Mark Recchi, the nickname “Wrecking Ball” was thrown around for the veteran’s willingness to skate to the dirty areas and take and give out the punishment that comes with the territory. But even Recchi himself never actually resembled a wrecking ball, at least not like Milan Lucic did in Game 2.
The big-bodied left winger used his size to his advantage in Game 2, absolutely bullying the Blackhawks with clean but heavy body checks all night long. On the stat sheet, Lucic was credited with a game-high 10 hits, four more than any other player, and though there’s no way to properly quantify their impact, there’s little doubt he helped wear down the Blackhawks. It was evident in the third period, when Lucic would enter the Chicago zone on the forecheck. By that point, Blackhawks D-men could be seen taking circuitous routes to the puck in order to let Lucic get there first. The D-men likely figured they’d have a better chance battling for the puck than they would getting crushed into the end boards.
The question for Game 3 is whether Lucic wore down himself with all that hitting. After more than 38 minutes on the ice in Game 1 and a punishing 24:33 time on ice in Game 2, Lucic is no doubt a little tired heading into Game 3. Then again, so is everyone else. If Lucic can once again impose his presence the way he did in Game 2, it’ll be another long night for the Blackhawks.
Tuukka Being Tuukka
At this point, there’s really not much left to say about Tuukka Rask. He saves just about every single puck he sees, and even some he doesn’t. His numbers are absurd, and he was the sole reason the Bruins had any chance to even win Game 2.
Fortunately for him, it would be hard to believe it could get much tougher than the first period of Game 2, when he stopped 18 of 19 shots, with only a Patrick Sharp shot through a couple of bodies finding its way into the net.
Unfortunately for Tuukka, the man across the ice has been just as good. Here’s how Corey Crawford’s numbers compare to Rask this postseason:
Crawford: 13-6 record, .935 save percentage, 1.72 goals-against average
Rask: 13-5 record, .944 save percentage, 1.73 goals-against average
For Rask, that means there’s no room for a letdown. While he didn’t really have much of a chance on three of Chicago’s four goals in Game 1, he may have to make an impossible save or two to keep similar shots out of the net going forward. Knowing how solid Crawford’s been for Chicago, it looks like these games will all come down to one goal. Rask is going to have to maintain his out-of-control pace as the team’s MVP for the Bruins to keep winning games.
O From D
A major part of the Bruins’ somewhat surprising run to the Cup Final was unlikely scoring from the blue line. Though Adam McQuaid made the play to keep the puck in the Chicago zone for the game-winning goal in Game 2, the defensemen have yet to find the back of the net for the Bruins this series.
Prior to the Final, the blue-liners chipped in with a healthy dose of complementary scoring. Johnny Boychuk netted five goals, which is still tied for fourth-most on the team this postseason. Torey Krug, quite memorably, scored four goals against the Rangers in the second round, while Adam McQuaid doubled his regular-season goal total with two, including the lone goal of the Bruins’ Game 4 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins.
In this series, goals from the D-men won’t be a necessity, but they may be the biggest key if the Bruins hope to try to build a lead bigger than one goal. Whether it’s a Boychuk blast through traffic, Krug on the power play or a well-placed wrister by Andrew Ference, Game 3 would be a good time for the D-men to get on the score sheet.