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Saturday, June 22

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Blackhawks Fri Jun 14 2013

Blackhawks And Bruins: Game 2 Preview

Thumbnail image for GB blackhawks icon.png Considering everyone just woke up from the Game 1 triple-overtime thriller, now seems like a good time to preview tomorrow night's Game 2 matchup between the Blackhawks and Bruins. The Hawks won Game 1 by the final of 4-3, after nearly playing the equivalent of a doubleheader Wednesday night/Thursday morning. The game was the fifth-longest Stanley Cup Final game in NHL history, which simultaneously sobered everyone up inside the United Center (beer sales cut off after the second period), while making insomniacs out of everyone else at home or at their local watering hole.

Looking back on Game 1, it's safe to say the Hawks dodged a bullet, especially after watching Zdeno Chára hit the post with 11.5 seconds left in the second overtime. Outside of baseball, hockey relies a lot on lucky bounces and lucky breaks (see every post hit by the Hawks versus the Red Wings). Yes, the Hawks are very good, but if Chára's shot is one inch to the left, there would be a vastly different narrative and mood coming from each respective city.

Take Andrew Shaw's goal -- you know, the one where afterwards he claimed to love shin pads? That goal came off of Michal Rozsíval's shot, which skipped off of Dave Bolland and then finished off of Shaw's now-famous shin pads. The odds of that shot going in again is beyond comprehension, especially with that much traffic in front of the net.

The good news is there's no need to wonder what would have happened if Rozsíval's "Magic Bullet" shot would not have gone in, as well as the fact that the Hawks scored twice as many goals in one game (technically two games?) as the high-powered Pittsburgh Penguins did in four. The scouting report on Tuukka Rask was he was hard to beat down low, with his flexibility and butterfly defense, but could be exposed up top.

Brandon Saad's goal beat Rask high on his weak side, Bolland got his one-timer a little air for the Hawks' second goal, and Shaw's padder was eye-level. Only Johnny Oduya's game-tying slapper from the blue line snuck in, but that's because it went off the skate of the Bruins' Andrew Ference.

The one thing the Hawks battled that they haven't seen a lot previously of was shot blocking. The Bruins thrive on diving to the ice and camping out in front of the net in order to block every shot sent Rask's way. The Bruins are then quick to get back on offense, which forces the Hawks defensemen to sit back.

With the Bruins being so tough on defense, head coach Joel Quenneville had to work on mixing up his lines in order to counter what Claude Julien had in store. The line shuffling should continue for Game 2.

"Most of the guys over the course of the season play with one another," Quenneville said, after Friday's morning skate. "Sometimes we try things, and we usually try them when we don't like the way things are going."

In Game 1, Quenneville started Sharp-Toews-Hossa, which was very different from the Bickell-Toews-Kane line from Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals against the Kings. Quenneville went with a little more fire power to kick-start Game 1, which was mixed up from there. Meanwhile, somewhere Viktor Stålberg is wondering which team he'll play on in 2013-14.

If it's one thing the Hawks cannot do in its matchup with the Bruins is to counter with hits. It's been said before, and proven in Game 1, but the Hawks need to continue to work on beating the Bruins in speed and efficiency. Yes, there are lucky bounces, but creating opportunities for those lucky bounces come from skating aggressively and passing with efficiency. Trying to clock the 6'9" Chára will only result in a separated shoulder and an appearance on Comcast's post-game show highlight reel, but more so as the butt of a Steve Konroyd joke.

Game 1 was epic, but could have gone either way. Look for the Hawks to keep shooting (63 shots in Game 1), while trying to chip away at the Bruins' wall, just as long as it isn't during a power play. On the other side of the ice, the Hawks need to better protect Corey Crawford in their own zone and refrain from too-many-men-on-the-ice penalties (two in Game 1).

It should be another close one, which could end sometime Saturday night/Sunday morning. Get some rest now.

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