What a game that was last night, eh? The NHL couldn't have asked for more from the B's and Hawks: hits, goals, back-and-forth play, and an epic finish in triple overtime. To wit, last night's game was the most-watched Stanley Cup Final game in 16 years, posting a rating twice as high as that of last year's opener between the Los Angeles Kings and New Jersey Devils.
For Bruins fans, however, last night's game was a fever dream, a "did that really happen?" mirage painfully jarred to life after seven or eight cups of coffee this morning. "Crap...yes, it did."
Let's not sugarcoat things: the Bruins, harkening back to the doldrums of March/April, squandered a two-goal lead in the third period. For a team that prides itself on tight defense, that's unacceptable. Also, for large stretches of the latter portion of the game, the B's couldn't make a clean play out of the defensive zone, with pucks desperately chipped off the wall to no one or sent skittering away for icing.
However, there's no reason to panic, no reason to look up and verify that yes, the sky is indeed falling. The B's did plenty of things well last night, and fans should be optimistic that there are better times ahead for the hometown team.
- Krejci and Lucic were fantastic Two-thirds of the first line was tremendous last night, with both David Krejci and Milan Lucic firing on all cylinders. Lucic had his legs moving, was thunderous on the forecheck (there was a sequence in the second last night where Duncan Keith went back for a puck, saw Lucic coming, and stepped to the side to avoid getting hit), and had a nose for the net. Krejci was in vintage "Playoff Krejci" form, floating passes tape-to-tape and creating space in the offensive zone. Prior to his injury, Nathan Horton hadn't really done anything special, but he wasn't dragging the other two down. Midway through last night's game, NBC's announcers noted that the Hawks had "no answer" for the B's top line last night. In fact, Lucic had more than one chance at a hat trick, but he couldn't bury the elusive third goal. However, both he and Krejci had impressive nights, hopefully a sign of things to come.
- Not a surge, but a trickle of power The B's power play showed signs of life last night, going 1-for-3 on the evening. The power play came close to winning the game at the end of the second overtime as well, with Jaromir Jagr tipping a Zdeno Chara shot off the left post and through the crease. The power play goal was a laser beam, and came with the Bruins icing four forwards and a single defenseman on the man advantage. Patrice Bergeron found some open ice and wired the puck home. True, the B's failed to capitalize on their last two chances, but the goal on that first power play should inspire some confidence.
- Chances galore It's not like the Bruins were beaten 7-0, and Chicago's noted defense simply shut the Bruins down. The B's managed 54 shots on goal, dozens more that were blocked or missed the net, and had four or five golden chances at winning the game in one of the three overtimes. Sure, they didn't bury any of them, and that's a problem. But the bounces didn't go the Bruins' way last night, as was the case at times in the Toronto series. Corey Crawford had a solid game, but looked bad on the B's second goal and got a lot of help from his defensemen in other instances. The point? The chances were there, the Bruins just didn't bury them last night. It happens. The fact that they generated that many chances against Chicago is a good sign.
- It's happened before If history is any indicator, the B's will be fine. Remember, they lost the first two games of the 2011 Final on the road before pasting the Canucks in two games at the Garden to get back in the series. Both games were close, with one ending in overtime and the other going down to the final minute. Most of these Bruins were on that team, and know that a team is never in trouble until it loses a game at home. The best argument against this has been "well these aren't the Canucks!" If you remember, the Canucks weren't the "Canucks" in Games 1 and 2 either. It took the B's some time to figure them out.