It’s crazy to think that were already talking about game four of the Stanley Cup Finals. Feels like it was just yesterday that the Bruins were starting this quest for the Cup, and now they’re only two games away from hoisting the cup. Before fans start busting out the champagne, and making parade plans the B’s still have a long way to go before that can happen. For those that think the Blackhawks aren’t going to come out with desperation in tonight’s game remember this, the Hawks were down 3-1 in the series against the Detroit Red Wings. I believe that this will be the best played game for the Blackhawks in this series, for the simple fact that no team wants to overcome the daunting task of 3-1 series lead (especially against the Bruins). Let’s dig into what the Bruins must do to take a vice grip handle on this series.
1. The Faceoff Circle
This is such a small part of a game, but like I said in my latest article, the little things in sports make for huge differences in the outcome of a game. The Bruins have been dominant on the faceoff circle (game 3: Bruins win 40 faceoff’s, compared to Hawks 16), and it has made a huge difference in each game. When the Bruins can dominant that area of the game, they normally find themselves to win the game no matter who the opponent is. Patrice Bergeron was huge during game three, as he won 19 of 22 faceoffs that he had throughout the game (another dominant player is Peverly). The reason that this part of the game is so important is because when a team can win faceoffs, they usually have control of the puck a lot more than their opponent which leads to more scoring chances. If the Bruins can keep their stellar play in this area, look for them to be in a good position to win when the third period rolls around.
Tuukka Rask in these playoffs has been spectacular to say the least, and has been the backbone of this team. However, the Blackhawks goaltender, Crawford, has also been special, and the Bruins don’t want to make his job easier. In game three, the Bruins helped out Rask tremendously, as they blocked a total of 15 shots, while Rask only faced 28 shots the whole game. We are used to Rask making anywhere from 30-40 shots a night, so the Bruins need to keep helping out their guy in net by blocking shots, and clearing out the front of the net. At the end of game three, Chara sent a message to the Blackhawks, if you stand in front of the net you will get punished. The B’s needs to keep sending that message, that if you come in front of Rask expect to get hit. Rask posted his third shutout this postseason (the other two during the Penguins series) the other night, and I expect that his focus will be to pick up where he left off.
3. Power-Play success
The Power-Play unit has been the Achilles heel for the Bruins for most of the postseason, as they could never seem to get it going. As of late, they have found some success in this series, with Patrice Bergeron leading the way with two goals. It’s very important for the Bruins to continue to take advantage of any opportunity they have to score a goal. With the Blackhawks being a smart team, they don’t take to many bonehead penalties, which means everyone the B’s get they need to make sure to take advantage of them. Even if the Bruins don’t score on each one, they can at least get shots on net and build momentum moving forward.
4. 60 Minute game
On Monday night, the Bruins honestly played their first full “60 minute” game. They came out strong, with energy and really punched the Hawks in the mouth. They continued this style of play throughout most of the game, and didn’t really seem to let the Hawks get any kind of momentum going. When you play a great team like the Blackhawks, it’s highly important to impose you will upon them for 60 minutes. I feel that if the Bruins implement their physical nature throughout the game, we could see similar results to Monday night’s performance.
The game tonight should be highly exciting, as I expect the Blackhawks to come out fired up and ready to fight for their season. The Bruins need to treat this game as if they were the ones down 2-1 because getting comfortable isn’t something you want to do just yet. They have a huge opportunity to take a commanding lead in this series, and the B’s need to take advantage of this. They will be at home in Boston, so the home crowd will be electric tonight and hopefully helping the B’s along the way. The game has an 8:00p.m (eastern) start time, and will be aired on NBC.