Photo credit: csnne.com
The Stanley Cup Final opened in dramatic fashion last night as the Chicago Blackhawks were able to rally back from a 3-1 Bruins lead in order and send the game to overtime where the night would only just begin. Boston came into the series on extended rest after sweeping the top seeded Penguins in the Eastern Conference Final. The Bruins were able to win that series after shutting down Pittsburgh’s big four in Crosby, Malkin, Neal, and Letang. The Bruins would need to do the exact same thing against Chicago, which is also a very deep team who excels in all dimensions of the game. The Blackhawks were able to beat the LA Kings with relative ease as star winger Patrick Kane came alive in game 5 netting a hat trick which sent the defending champs home.

Boston was able to beat the Penguins by playing great defense and having goalie Tuukka Rask play out of his mind for all four games. For the first ten minutes of last night’s game, it looked as if Boston’s defense would grind it out with the Blackhawks during every possession but we all knew that wasn’t realistically possible. Chicago’s great fore-check and excellent 3rd and 4th line play were all indicators that they would be a much tougher match for the Bruins. Boston would need to match Chicago’s intensity and create scoring chances in order to hang with a well-rounded team like Chicago.

The first period started like one of any Game 1 of a playoff series. Each team was feeling out the other’s style of play while nobody wanted to be responsible for giving up the first goal of the series. A little over halfway through, Boston’s top and most consistent line of Krejci, Horton, and Lucic was at it again as they made some passes that would make Magic Johnson proud and Lucic was able to put one past hot goalie Corey Crawford to go up 1-0. The momentum would carry into the second period and not even a minute in, Lucic lit the lamp for the second time that night and Boston had a 2-0 lead.

Chicago did a great job of keeping up the pressure on its fore-check and fearless rookie Brandon Saad helped reignite the United Center with his one-timer snipe from the left circle making the game 2-1. The gritty play would then resume until Patrice Bergeron scored on the first power play shot for Boston, a unit that went scoreless against Pittsburgh. With the lead back at two, Chicago once again, wouldn’t go down without a fight. Andrew Shaw set Dave Bolland up with a long one-timer pass that Rask couldn’t slide over in time to save it and Chicago was able to get the lead back to one. Four minutes later Chicago worked the puck back into the offensive zone and Defenseman Johnny Oduya was able to fire one from the point and the puck took a fortunate bounce off of Andrew Ference’s skate to tie the game up at three goals apiece. This was only just the beginning as some great back and forth hockey was in store for all of us to see.

The overtime periods are what made this game into one of the best (and longest) playoff games in recent memory. Excellent fore-checking from both teams and focused yet relaxed play from both Crawford and Rask highlighted overtime as a whole.  Each team had a number of scoring chances, but players from both teams were willing to put their bodies out on the line in order to win just the first game of the series. Finally, at 12:08 into the 3rd overtime period, Andrew Shaw was the second person to deflect a shot from Michal Rozsival past Tuukka Rask to win game 1 of the series.

Looking forward, the Bruins have been down before in the Finals and came back against Vancouver in spite of a Nathan Horton injury. Horton suffered an upper body injury during a scrum with Niklas Hjalmarsson during the first overtime period. His status is still unknown for game 2 and you can expect to see Jordan Caron put in the lineup if Horton is unable to play. As far as Chicago is concerned, the absence of Kane and Toews from the score sheet is very similar to the way that Boston was able to shut down Crosby and Malkin in the previous series. Chicago’s offensive play should be able to get them more involved as the series progresses. This series has the making of a seven game war before it’s all said and done. The puck will drop for game 2 at 8:00 on Saturday night in Chicago.

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