The Chicago Blackhawks came into Sunday’s game against the Boston Bruins looking to defend their home ice in a Stanley Cup Final rematch, and they did just that as they knocked off the Bruins by a score of 3-2.
We’ll have plenty more coverage of the victory throughout the day, and we’ll get things started here with the Three Stars of the Game.
Third Star: Brandon Bollig
One of the big criticisms of Bollig during his tenure with the Blackhawks has been that he isn’t the most disciplined guy on the ice. His high penalty minute total would seem to back that theory up, but lately, Bollig has been showing more maturity, and he came through in several big ways on Sunday.
For starters, there was the goal that he scored in the second period that tied the game at 2-2. On that play, Duncan Keith made an excellent decision to cycle the puck around the boards instead of trying to force a shot through traffic. After Marcus Kruger made a play on the puck behind the net, it was Bollig that ended up with it along the goal line.
Instead of continuing to cycle the puck back to the point, Bollig instead threw Tuukka Rask for a loop when he fired the puck on net. The shot ended up bouncing off of Rask’s boot and into the cage, lighting the lamp and sending the United Center crowd into a frenzy.
Equal to what Bollig did in the game was what he decided not to do. In the first period of the game, Bollig drilled Torrey Krug with a clean check in the corner of the ice. When Krug wanted to mix it up with Bollig, the youngster wisely declined, and the Bruins didn’t get an opportunity to seize any of the momentum in the game.
The decision not to fight was an interesting one by Bollig, and perhaps we will see more of that kind of decision making as he continues to get bigger chunks of ice time.
Second Star: Corey Crawford
During the past year or so, Crawford has made it a habit of allowing a soft goal or two early on in games as he gets settled in, but more often than not, he is able to shake off those tallies and come back in a big way later in the game.
Sunday definitely qualified as one of those nights. After giving up two goals to Brad Marchand (one on a sick wrister at the end of the first period, and the other right between his pads in the opening stages of the second), Crawford managed to collect himself and racked up a total of 34 saves as he picked up his second consecutive victory in net.
There were a couple of moments where Crawford really stood on his head in this one. There was the Reilly Smith breakaway that came after Sheldon Brookbank turned the puck over, and Crawford was able to snuff it out by centering up the shooter and not biting on head fakes. There was also the way Crawford responded to Brandon Saad’s hooking minor in the later stages of the second period, as he kept his composure under a barrage of Bruins shots.
The most important sequence for Crawford came in the third period though, as he faced down his nemesis and triumphed. On that play, Marchand got the puck at the top of the face-off dot, and looked like he was going to drive in towards the net. Seeing this, Crawford got out to the top of his crease, cut off the angle, and forced Marchand into taking a low percentage shot.
That knowledge of when to be aggressive and when to pull back has been an invaluable tool for Crawford over the past few seasons, and it was beneficial to the Hawks to have him in top form for this one.
First Star: Marian Hossa
Ever since he turned 35 years old, it seems as though Hossa has been trying to prove to the world that he is nowhere near being washed up, and that quest for recognition continued against the Bruins on Sunday.
Within the first five minutes of the contest, Hossa had already made his mark. As Zdeno Chara skated in the Bruins’ offensive zone with the puck, Hossa was able to deftly strip his Slovakian Olympic teammate of the puck. The biscuit ended up finding its way to Niklas Hjalmarsson, who fired a great pass to Patrick Sharp to get the rush going the other way.
Sharp hesitated once he got close to Rask’s net in order for the rush to catch up for him, and naturally, it was Hossa who was the trailing man on the play. As Hossa got to the net, Sharp feathered a pass into the middle of the ice, and Hossa was able to get a stick on it and push it past Rask to give the Blackhawks an early 1-0 lead.
The tally was Hossa’s 20th of the season, and like most of his goals, it was a product of hard work on both ends of the ice. Other players clearly take after Hossa’s example, and as Tim Sassone of the Daily Herald pointed out correctly on Sunday afternoon, plays like that are the reason why Hossa should be a serious contender for the Selke Trophy as the league’s best defensive forward.