A series between two Original Six teams received every historical cliche before Game One.
Then the series began, and the play on the ice backed up every bit of the hype.
Before the game started, the anthem blew the roof off the United Center. I haven’t seen any “noise” figures yet, but I would be shocked if 2010 was louder than what the crowd brought on Wednesday night.
The faithful didn’t lose momentum after the anthem ended. The United Center was loud throughout the entire game.
A game that lasted almost five hours.
As the clocks in the United Center hit midnight, Andrew Shaw was credited with tipping home a Michal Rozsival shot to give the Blackhawks a stunning Game One victory. The effort given by players on both rosters was incredible, and after two overtimes in which neither team could find a way to end a great game, the Hawks were finally able to finish the job.
Shaw played a marvelous game. In spite of appearing small enough to be Zdeno Chara’s son, Shaw went after him right from the drop of the puck on Wednesday night.
“[Chara’s] a big boy,” Shaw said after the game. “He’s strong… I think I held my own. He’s a great player. Logs a lot of minutes. Got to get on him and try to tire him out as much as we can.”
Shaw was credited with the game-winning goal, had a gorgeous pass through traffic to set up Dave Bolland for the Hawks’ second goal of the night, and he finished tied with Brandon Bollig for the team lead with nine hits. Now shifting at wing after coach Joel Quenneville mixed up his lines, Shaw only took one faceoffs in Game One, and he won that too. He skated 24:03 in the game.
Bolland scored his first goal of the postseason, and played his best game since the Vancouver series in the 2011 playoffs. He was all over the ice, and made a number of key defensive plays to keep the puck out of the net. He was credited with only three hits and two takeaways in the game, but the third line that included Bolland Shaw throughout the night was as dynamic as any in the game.
Brandon Saad started the night on the third line with Bolland and Shaw, but was once again as effective as any forward on the Chicago roster. By the middle of the second period, Quenneville rewarded the rookie by moving him back to the line on which he spent the regular season – with Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa – where he made an immediate impact.
Saad scored the first goal of the Stanley Cup Final for the Blackhawks, his first of the postseason, just over two minutes after Milan Lucic scored his second goal of the game to push Boston’s lead to 2-0. The goal gave the Hawks’ bench life after giving up the first two goals of the series, and Saad stayed with Toews and Hossa the rest of the evening. He finished the night skating 31:15 with nine shots on goal, two hits and two takeaways.
We could continue listing players that played “the game of his life” last night, but most of Chicago’s role players stepped up and played the huge game that is required to come back from a two-goal deficit in the third period and win in a third overtime.
Johnny Oduya was out of position on the Bruins’ first goal, but had a great game after that. He may have saved the game on a couple occasions in overtime, once breaking up a two-on-one breakaway and then, in the third overtime, he poked the puck away from Kaspars Daugavins with a wide-open net behind him. Daugavins buried his head on the bench after not putting the puck home and ending the game, but replay showed that Oduya got just enough of the puck to keep him from getting a shot away.
Oduya skated 37:20 and finished the night with seven blocked shots, five hits and the game-tying goal in the third period.
While the skaters for the Hawks battled back to tie the game in the third, Corey Crawford once again showed that he is now a big-game goaltender.
Crawford was magnificent the entire night, allowing three goals against 54 Boston shots. Most of the night his rebound control was solid, and on the occasions that the puck was loose in front of the net he was able to keep it out of the net.
Crawford played 112:08 in the game.
His counterpart, Tuukka Rask, was equally great on Wednesday night. He faced 63 shots, stopping 59. However, his comments after the game may get more attention than his save total.
When asked about losing a two-goal lead in the third period, Rask was blunt with his analysis. He said a bad turnover led to the Hawks’ second goal, and a deflection led to the third. The turnover came off the stick of rookie defenseman Torey Krug, and the talking heads on NHL Network spent time discussing whether or not Rask handled the question as well as he should have after such an epic game.
For the Bruins, Patrice Bergeron showed why he won the Selke last year. He blocked five shots and won 27 of 41 faceoffs in 33:40, and scored the third goal of the night for Boston. David Krejci had two assists, but won only 16 of 36 faceoffs in the game.
Lucic dominated the play early, scoring the first two goals of the night and assisting on the third, but then went silent. He skated over seven minutes without a shot on goal in the first overtime session, and failed to generate a good scoring chance in either of the final two overtimes.
The biggest news from the game for Boston was the loss of Nathan Horton in the first overtime period. A number of media outlets reported late in the game that Horton had suffered a shoulder injury, but Claude Julien would not confirm anything after the game.
Chicago’s powerplay sucked again, going 0-3 including a laughably-bad 5-on-3 and equally pathetic two minutes with Chara in the box. Lucic’s second goal of the night came on a Boston powerplay, but their other two opportunities – both too many men infractions in the first and second overtimes, respectively – were handled effectively by the Hawks.
Exhausted players will go back to work on Saturday evening at the United Center for Game Two.