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BOSTON (CBS) — Patrice Bergeron is the perfect hockey player.
It’s not as if there was much doubt about Bergeron’s two-way talent — his Selke Trophy and Stanley Cup-clinching goal let folks know long ago — but still, even after doing everything for years, Bergeron still manages to impress.
With the entire hockey world watching, Bergeron put forth a nearly perfect effort in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final. He skated for 19:49 against the Blackhawks. He scored a power-play goal. He spent 3:25 on the ice in shorthanded situations, as the Bruins killed all four full Chicago power plays. He blocked a shot and put seven of his own on net. And in the faceoff dot, where nobody is better, Bergeron won 24 of his 28 draws.
He was, simply, Mr. Perfect.
After the game, this year’s runner-up for the Selke was quick to credit his teammates and say all the right things. He’ll never soak in the spotlight or gloat about any of his performances. He’ll just keep doing everything right. When he does that, good things tend to happen for the Bruins.
But Bergeron wasn’t nearly the only story in Game 3, so let’s run through all the leftover thoughts from the Bruins’ 2-0 victory.
–If someone familiar with the sport of hockey but unfamiliar with the NHL asked you to describe what makes the Boston Bruins different, you could point to one shift in Game 3. It came in the third period, with David Krejci in the penalty box and the Bruins hanging on to a 2-0 lead. Bergeron and Daniel Paille, Boston’s two goal scorers, were out there on the penalty kill, relentlessly fighting to get in position to block shots and clog all passing and shooting lanes to keep the Blackhawks off the board.
The goal-scoring duo logged nearly six combined shorthanded minutes as the Bruins killed off their 27th consecutive penalty. That, in a nutshell, is Boston Bruins hockey.
(Or you could just show them the famed Gregory Campbell shift, but then they might get confused and think breaking bones is a prerequisite for being on the Bruins.)
–Are you getting tired of the Tuukka Rask story yet? I mean, ever since he wiped out on Broadway, he’s been as perfect as possible. Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said after the game that his players made it easy on Rask in Game 3, but I disagree. Quite the opposite, actually: Rask is simply making it look easy.
He stopped all 28 Chicago shots he faced for his third shutout of the postseason. He dropped his goals-against average down to 1.64 and improved his save percentage to .946. If he can see a shot, he’s going to stop it, whether it’s a missile of a slap shot by Duncan Keith, a speedy wraparound by Viktor Stalberg, or a 1-on-1 in close against Patrick Kane. Rask is going to stop it.
He wasn’t given the Army Rangers jacket as player of the game because I feel like at a certain point, he just told his teammates, “You know what? I’m good. You guys go ahead and pass that around.”
–Again, I do this only to stifle the ever-dwindling population of fans who will not give Rask credit until he wins a Cup, like Tim Thomas did. So here we go, now through 19 games:
Rask: 14-5 record, .946 save percentage, 1.64 GAA
Thomas: 12-7, .931 save percentage, 2.23 GAA
Rask in 2013 is better than Thomas in 2011. Rask in 2013 is better than Thomas in 2011. Rask in 2013 is better than Thomas in 2011. Believe it.
–The Blackhawks had to have known they were toast before the game, when a picture-perfect double rainbow popped up over the city of Boston. Two U’s, two K’s, two rainbows, two wins. Everybody knows that.
–Of all the sports cliches that come flying out of athletes’ mouths, the most commonly used one is without a doubt “taking it one game at a time.” It’s to the point that reporters just need to start asking, “How many games at a time do you plan on taking this series?” just to get it out of the way early.
So I got a kick out of Corey Crawford postgame: “It’s always one game at a time. It’s been like that. I don’t know how many times I’ve said that to you guys this year, and it hasn’t changed. It’s the same way it’s going to be.”
Corey Crawford has made it abundantly clear: It’s one game at a time for the Blackhawks. No more questions!
–This guy must have spent a whole lot of money on his ticket to the the game. But you know what? He’ll have this photo to hang on his wall forever. Worth it.
–I’ve been amazed to see how many folks have seemed surprised to see Jaromir Jagr still showing flashes of his greatness. You all understand this man is one of the best 10 or so players to ever play the sport, right? He isn’t 25 years old anymore but that type of otherworldly skill doesn’t just disappear, and that pass on the power play through the crease that weaved through eight legs and four sticks before ending up on Bergeron’s tape was a true “Wow” play by Jagr.
Jagr’s backhand shot on net early in the first, which was so forceful that it sent Duncan Keith’s stick flying through the air, was another.
–Plus, the philosophical side of Jagr has been so much fun to watch in his post-40 years.
“How old are you?” he asked a reporter. “See, when you hit 30, then 40, you got to be cooled down at some point. That’s the age. No highs, no lows. I learned that’s the best way to do it. Emotion always — if you’re too high or too low, it’s kind of stopping you anyways. So, you have to be the same all the time, no matter happens.”
Be the same all the time. Sounds awesome.
–That power-play goal was made possible by the Jagr pass, of course, but also to Milan Lucic. Lucic didn’t spend the night knocking Blackhawks off their feet like he did in Game 2, but he stood right on front of that net and occupied two white sweaters, thereby allowing Bergeron the space to shoot into an empty net. Considering the Blackhawks only had three skaters in the defensive zone (Dave Bolland was on his way after getting out of the box), it doesn’t take a mathematician to know he played a big role in that goal, despite it not showing up on the score sheet.
–I credited Rask for stopping Kane in close earlier, but really, that was a pretty awful play by Kane, who has looked like anything but a dangerous goal scorer this series. He’s been unsuccessful on his 13 shots on net, registering his only point of the series with an assist on the wild scramble in Game 2. Maybe he saw the Bruins shut down Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby and Jarome Iginla in the previous round and just figured there was no point in even trying, because so far he’s just not been a factor.
–Speaking of Mr. Bolland, I do not believe he will be telling his grandchildren about his performance in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final. He was penalized three times — two trips, one cross-check — and was on the ice for both goals. It could be argued he was heavily responsible for both goals too, as Paille picked his pocket before scoring the first goal. On the second, he was just a few strides out of the penalty box. Niklkas Hjalmarsson was forced to take a tripping penalty himself while killing Bolland’s penalty, leading to the extended man advantage for Boston.
–Chris Kelly brought up an interesting nugget about Paille. Kelly credited Paille for earning every single one of his goals, saying, “I don’t think he gets any power play chances.” Well, sure enough if you look at Paille’s stats, he has 78 career goals (regular season and playoffs) and exactly zero have come on the power play. Eleven have come shorthanded.
–The brawl at the end of the game started with Zdeno Chara just mauling Bryan Bickell in front of the net. It was mostly an insignificant mess after that, but I did notice Andrew Shaw try to land a huge left hook while Brad Marchand was lying flat on the ice. That no doubt violated the code, but I wonder if there is a code when Marchand and Shaw are involved. If you think about it, Shaw said he likes to model his game after Marchand’s, so can Marchand take offense when Shaw crosses a line?
That’s a deep question that only Dr. Jaromir Jagr is equipped to answer.
–Make no mistake, Rask has been very good. Still, I thought Brent Seabrook bowing at the altar of Tuukka and praying for a goal was a bit over the top.
–If there’s been one consistent complaint about the Bruins this year (and in past years), it’s been their tendency to sometimes let off the gas pedal and let teams back into the game. If it’s going to draw complaints when they do that, it should draw some praise when they finish strong. And that’s exactly what they did in Game 3.
Admittedly, the Blackhawks didn’t display all that much urgency in the third period, when they were trailing by two goals. Through the first 13:35 of the period, shots were tied at 4-to-4. Then, aided by a Bolland penalty, the Bruins rattled off five of the game’s next six shots.
Maybe the Blackhawks sort of looked like they were skating in a March matinee after they fell behind by two, but nevertheless, the Bruins showed the killer instinct that occasionally dropped off in the past — including in Game 1 of this very series. They know what’s at stake right now, and if they do relinquish this series lead, they’re just not going to give it up easily.
–If the Bruins can win Game 4, that means Lord Stanley will be in attendance for Game 5 in Chicago. There is simply no greater pressure for a team trailing in the series than to have Lord Stanley in the building.