Stanley Cup final turning into gruelling affair | Hockey | CBC Sports

Playoffs 2013Stanley Cup final turning into gruelling affair

Posted: Sunday, June 16, 2013 | 07:37 PM

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Even with great conditioning, the Stanley Cup final has taken its toll on players like Blackhawks defenceman Duncan Keith, left, and Bruins forward Brad Marchand, right, after two games. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) Even with great conditioning, the Stanley Cup final has taken its toll on players like Blackhawks defenceman Duncan Keith, left, and Bruins forward Brad Marchand, right, after two games. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

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After dramatic and strange games in Chicago, the Blackhawks and Bruins shift to Boston for the next two outings. It will be interesting to see how much these teams have left after more than nine periods of hockey.

BOSTON -- Besides the fact that the Boston Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks are pooped after already playing 185 minutes and 56 seconds in the first two games of the Stanley Cup final, what have we learned after more than nine periods of hockey?

That this has been a strange championship series so far. Score that all-important first goal, like the Bruins did in Game 1, and the Blackhawks did in Game 2 -- you lose.

Build a two-goal lead early in the third period like the defensively responsible Bruins did in the series opener -- you lose.

Dominate your opponents and outshoot them 19-4 in the first period like the Blackhawks did in Game 2 -- you lose, too.

Yes, this has been an extraordinary championship get-together so far. But do these two teams have anything left in the tank?

Take Blackhawks stud defenceman Duncan Keith. His teammates marvel at his conditioning, but even he must feel somewhat knackered after 121:01 of ice time in three consecutive overtime games, including the West final finale a week ago against the Los Angeles Kings.

"I think as players we've gone through things like that before," said Keith, whose team has gone 0-3 in Game 3s in the 2013 playoffs. "It's just a lot about getting your rest. It's not rocket science. You just get sleep, try to eat as best you can, do all those little things so you feel good and are ready to go."

Rask busier than Crawford

How about Tuukka Rask? He's been busier than his Chicago counterpart Corey Crawford, having faced 97 shots in two games, compared to 82 for Crawford.

"Not overly tired," Rask said. "I don't think we feel as fresh as a Tuesday in October, but considering the circumstances I think everyone is feeling pretty good."

As the series shifts to Boston for the next two games on Monday and Wednesday (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 7:30 p.m. ET), Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville admitted that he may replace fourth-liner Brandon Bollig with Viktor Stalberg.

The Bruins, meanwhile, have positive memories from 2011 to draw upon. After they dropped the first two games in Vancouver, they bounced back with two victories at home to get back in the Stanley Cup series that they eventually won over the Vancouver Canucks in seven games.

This has all the makings of a long series, too.

"Yeah, exactly," Rask said. "Both teams have the same kind of assets. I think it's pretty much what everybody expected. I don't know if anybody expected to go to triple overtime the first game, but still it's been tight, one-goal games. That's usually how the playoffs go."

Even though the Bruins emerged out of the gate with poor starts in the first two games of the 2013 final, two areas they have been better in than the Blackhawks have been special teams and in the physical department.

Bruins perfect on penalty kills

Boston has gone a perfect six-for-six on penalty kills in the series and now has killed off 22 in a row, dating back to their second-round finale. The Bruins also have the final's lone power-play goal in five man-advantage situations.

They also have out-hit the Blackhawks 109-95.

"I don't really think a whole lot about it," Keith said, when asked about the hits statistic. "I definitely think being physical is something that you need to have. But whether they get more hits, we get more hits, I don't go and look at that stat at the end of the game.

"I think we want to be physical, but also more than anything we want to be hard to play against. That's being hard in the puck areas, trying to win on those one-on-one puck battles, races for the puck."

The Bruins used their physicality to bounce back on Saturday after their dreadful opening 20 minutes.

"Boston's got a physical team," Keith said. "We've played physical teams in Los Angeles, as well. I think for us it's about being strong one-on-one with the puck, trying to be tough to get the puck."

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