Bruins forward Patrice Bergeron (37) celebrates with goalie Tuukka Rask after Boston defeated the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 3 Monday night to take a 2-1 series lead in the Stanley Cup final. (Harry How/Getty Images)
When Marian Hossa was unable to play in Game 3, it surprised many in the hockey world. The Chicago Blackhawks knew there was the possibility he would not play, but somebody forgot to tell his replacement, Ben Smith.
BOSTON -- The Chicago Blackhawks hid an upper-body injury to star Marian Hossa well enough over the last two days that most of the hockey world was caught off guard when he could not play on Monday, including the guy who replaced him, Ben Smith.
Head coach Joel Quenneville and many Blackhawks, like captain Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, said after the Blackhawks' 2-0 loss to the Boston Bruins that they were aware all day that Hossa might not play in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup final.
Quenneville confirmed in the morning that Viktor Stalberg was in for Brandon Bollig, but it was the old game-time decision with Hossa. He took the pre-game skate, but Smith did not. The only extra Chicago forward in the warmup was Jamal Mayers.
In fact, he didn't prepare for the possibility of playing earlier in the day because he went for lunch with his mom, who drove two hours into Boston from the family home in Avon, Conn.
"I just kind of scrambled to get ready and get warm," said Smith, who was told to suit up in his equipment after Hossa arrived in the dressing room from the pre-game skate.
The 24-year-old Smith had not played in a playoff game this spring. His last outing was the Blackhawks meaningless regular-season finale on April 27 in a game in which he scored.
"We're hopeful [Hossa will] be ready for the next game," Quenneville said. "It was a game-time decision after the warmup there. That's when we made the call, after warmup."
It was a strange warmup all around because in the Boston end, captain Zdeno Chara suffered a cut above his eye that required stitches after he collided with teammate Milan Lucic.
Smith played well for Chicago, all things considered. He wasn't the problem. On this night, even if Hossa was able to suit up for Game 3 of the Stanley Cup final, would he have made a difference? Not likely because the Bruins played that well, were that sturdy in their shutout victory to pull ahead 2-1 in the series.
After lapses in their two outings in Chicago, the Bruins returned to the kind of hockey that they have exhibited since their astonishing comeback win over the Toronto Maple Leafs in Game 7 of the first round.
They took care of the New York Rangers. They had a shockingly easy time with the talented Pittsburgh Penguins. Now they appear on track to beat the Blackhawks for their second Stanley Cup championship in three years.
The Bruins, who have won 11 of their last 13 playoff games, sure made the Blackhawks look ordinary in Game 3. They played with so much energy and effort. Their defence was relentless in all three zones.
"They're back-checking, having layers, so when somebody makes a mistake, you have somebody covering up. We're blocking a lot of shots. The commitment is totally there," Bruins coach Claude Julien said.
"Throughout a whole season, it's not easy to have that full commitment. But I think when you get to this stage, players start feeling it. They go above and beyond. That's what you're seeing from our team right now."
As they have been all season, the Bruins continued to dominate inside the faceoff circle. They won 40 of 69 draws in Game 3. Patrice Bergeron went an incredible 24-4. Chris Kelly wasn't too shabby either at 8-3. Meanwhile, on the Chicago side, Michal Handzus went 0-for-10 and David Bolland was 1-7.
Bolland also took a cross-checking penalty midway through the second period. While the Blackhawks killed off the final seconds of that penalty, defenceman Niklas Hjalmarsson tripped Paille as he raced in on the Chicago goal. While Hjalmarsson was in the box, Bergeron scored.
The Blackhawks power play continued to fizzle. It has gone 0-for-10 in the series, and now hasn't scored in 19 chances.
Boston goalkeeper Tuukka Rask wasn't busy. But he was solid when called upon.
He now has three shutouts in his last seven games, and will enter Game 4 on Wednesday (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 7:30 p.m. ET) with a 122-minute, 26-second shutout streak.
Tim WharnsbyTim's worked the sports beat at The Globe and Mail and the Toronto Sun, specializing in Canada's one true sporting obsession - hockey. He knows the players, the coaches, the backroom boys and most importantly, the fans. That's what he brings to his stories. Knowledge, fairness and understanding are trademarks of a Wharnsby story. That's what you will get here as he writes for CBCSports.ca.
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