I don’t want to get too extravagant or over the top here, but I can’t help but smile at how the Hawks and Bruins demonstrated everything good the sport can be a little more than 13 hours after Vancouver and Calgary pretty much embarrassed everyone involved with it. Because today was as good a game as the regular season can produce. And it involved none of the bullshit that sometimes comes with teams with a history.
It was fast, it was passionate, it was physical at times, both teams traded periods of having the upperhand. Big saves, big hits, nifty passing, defensive responsibility, it wouldn’t have looked out of place in late May. If there’s any downside, it was just another illustration that a contest like this is somewhat sullied by having it end in a skills competition. It easily could have ended 2-2 and I doubt anyone would have walked out of that building feeling like they didn’t get their money’s worth.
Whatever the Bruins’ struggles may have been coming into this, the cauldron of this one sealed up the cracks. It’s rare you find a team as defensively disciplined as the Bruins were today. The Hawks had I think two odd-man rushes. They scored on the first, and Toews missed the net on the second a few seconds later. Relatively sure that was just about it for open ice. The Bs kept their third forward very high and he was always back in time to give Tuukka Rask a shield from the Hawks’ speed. Rask was called on a few times and looked to be fighting it at points. But he did enough.
On the other side, Corey Crawford had to constantly make saves with Bruins going through his living room furniture, but the Hawks for the most part were able to clean up their crease. Just as the Bruins did, the Hawks severely limited how many chances the Bruins could get from the middle, rebounds aside. They weren’t quite as structured as the Bruins, but made up for it in fight and speed of feet and hands.
Just a January classic. Which doesn’t mean much, but it was great theater nonetheless.
-Both Bruins goals came from defensive mistakes, one from Keith and one from Hjalmarsson but both of the same variety. Each got suckered into following a puck carrier to the other side of the ice, leaving a red carpet for Brad Marchand to get to the net. Can’t give Patrice Bergeron and Reilly Smith that kind of look. But they weren’t systemic, just a couple of individual errors from the two best d-men on the Hawks. Doubt it will continue.
-Once again your best possession line on the Hawks was Bickell-Handzus-Versteeg. And once again Bickell didn’t get more than eight minutes. Steeger only saw 10. I’m not sure I get it. But I guess I’ll give up on it. I will say that since being taken off the 2nd line, Michal Handzus has been much better getting softer competition and responsibility. And he’s been excellent on the kill. It’s not that we thought Handzus couldn’t play a role this year, and this is much closer to what we envisioned.
-Thanks to the mostly immobile Bruins blue line, Brandon Bollig was able to have a much more physical presence. That said, I thought Ben Smith played his ass off and I still wonder what’s the best way to maximize him. What if he had genuine speed on the other wing?
-I’m still kind of waiting for Kane and Saad to explode. They had the one chance today, and were better than they were Friday. But they were among the worst in possession today, and I’m still not sure why.
-Did Iginla dress? Could you tell?
-It’s kind of amazing that these two teams played a highly competitive Final and yet even today there still seems to be a healthy respect between the teams. Sure, there was snarl but not after whistles. Played with the best of intents.
That’s enough for a Sunday. Just enjoy the buzz from a great game.