Claude Julien’s new game plan: “OK, boys, everybody get in the box.”
If it took some level of oddity for the power play-deficient Boston Bruins to overcome their woes in order to win the Stanley Cup in 2011, it’s going to take some wild form of divine intervention from the spirit of Dave Andreychuk to fix what ails the Chicago Blackhawks on the man-advantage in these Stanley Cup Finals. Oh, of course, give credit where it’s due to the Bruins’ suffocating penalty-kill squad, which has now not allowed a goal in 27 straight shorthanded opportunities, but what the Blackhawks are delivering the Bruins in that regard is like Chief Brody feeding the shark a can of sardines in hopes of making him vacate Amity Island.
It’s clearly not enough, and if head coach Joel Quenneville can’t remedy the situation in time for Game 4 Wednesday night at the TD Garden, the Bruins are going to devour the Blackhawks with the likelihood of raising the Stanley Cup and parading it around the United Center in Chicago Saturday night.
After the Blackhawks’ power play performance in Game 2, a 2-0 shutout at the hands of the Bruins, who now lead the Stanley Cup finals, 2-1, even Tomas Kaberle, the enigmatic puck-moving defenseman who was brought in at the ’11 deadline to help remedy Boston’s own malaise with the 5-4, had to be laughing at Chicago’s effort. At the very least, much of what didn’t work with Kaberle, who came to the Bruins with 22 power-play assists with Toronto, was the fact that the defenseman never felt comfortable with his role, oftentimes freezing in time with the puck as Julien, his teammates, and 17,565 strong smacked their foreheads in frustrating unison. It was a unit that Blackhawks fans can only dream about having these days.
When Shawn Thornton was called for roughing (cough) on Andrew Shaw at 14:15 in the second period, it sparked Chicago’s second power play of the game. The first came on Kaspars (see ya) Daugavins hit on Shaw at 9:57, which was only one of at least three moments during the game that Bruins fans started thirsting for Julien to release the Swede, Carl Soderberg, in favor of the deserved punching bag of the series thus far. Chicago managed zero shots on its first power play of the evening, and they did get one off in the second, but it was during that two minutes that the Bruins made the Blackhawks look like they were, in fact, the one on the man disadvantage.
The puck spent so much time in the Chicago and neutral zones that it might as well have made a cocktail with the faltering ice. Chris Kelly, Rich Peverley, and Brad Marchand (who broke his stick in frustration at the bench in the face of Daugavins when the puck sailed off of it) each had scoring chances, and when the disadvantage was over, it was clear that the only advantages on the evening would be in Boston’s favor, whether the Bruins found themselves in the penalty box or not.
The Bruins’ penalty kill is so good right now, and the Blackhawks power play is so increasingly futile, that the Bruins can physically have their way with Chicago the rest of this series. And the repercussions will be … what?
“Our power play tonight was definitely not good,” Quenneville said.
The sun will rise, the sun will set. And I’ll have lunch.
What’s even more remarkable about the Bruins’ PK success (at 88.9 percent, the fourth-best rate in the postseason), is that they are doing it without one of the squad’s key members in Gregory Campbell, lost to a broken fibula in a memorable sequence trying to stave off a Penguins power play in the Eastern Conference finals, but with David Krejci stepping in, the team hasn’t missed a beat. If and when the Bruins raise the Cup, Campbell’s grit will remain a lasting symbol of this playoff run, as will his linemates’ ability to shut down two of the more powerful offensives in the NHL.
“It’s just time to get a goal,” Chicago defenseman Duncan Keith told the Chicago Tribune. “There’s nothing more to say about it.”
Maybe not. But there may be plenty of time for the Blackhawks to think about it come Saturday.