BOSTON (CBS) — The Bruins didn’t play their best game on Saturday night, but they’ll need to be nearly perfect on Monday night if they hope to keep their season alive.
The Blackhawks jumped ahead on a fortunate bounce off the broken stick shaft of Dennis Seidenberg, but they completely took control of the game — and the series — in the second period. The Blackhawks were skating circles around the Bruins as they fired more than twice as many shots on net and doubled their lead to 2-0. Making matters worse, the Bruins lost the man who is arguably their MVP, Patrice Bergeron.
The Bruins played a better third period — and they were all much too happy to talk about that improved play after the loss — but really, at this point, it’s unacceptable for a team to play one strong period and expect to win. Sure, the Bruins won the physical battle, with 53 hits compared to Chicago’s 22, but for the first 40 minutes, the Bruins were unable to generate any real scoring chances. There’s a reason they don’t post the number of hits on the scoreboard.
The Blackhawks raised their game and were ready for Saturday night. The Bruins, yet again, got outplayed, thereby eliminating any and all room for error going forward.
“I don’t have that answer — we just played better in the third. We started playing, versus maybe sitting back too much,” head coach Claude Julien said. “We weren’t as good as we could have been in the first two; we were better in the third and gave ourselves a chance.”
Claude expressed confidence heading into Game 6.
“It’s pretty obvious: It’s do or die. We’ve been there before and we’ve done well in that situation. We’ve got to win the next game,” the coach said. “There’s no panic. You’re not going to push us away that easily. We’re a committed group and we plan on bouncing back.”
They’re the right words, but the Bruins have now played two straight games where they weren’t the hungrier, more desperate team. With the Stanley Cup in the building on Monday, they’ll have no choice but to be that team.
Though there weren’t too many positives, let’s quickly run through all the leftover thoughts from the Blackhawks’ 3-1 win in Game 5.
–Immediately, the response to the news of Patrice Bergeron being taken to a hospital for an unknown injury was panic. While the Bruins would no doubt have a hard road to winning this series without their best all-around player, his potential departure would be essentially washed out if Jonathan Toews is out for Chicago. It’s speculative (and kind of sick, considering it looked to be a head injury for Toews) to even speculate, so I won’t bother going further, but just keep Toews in mind when thinking about Bergeron.
–I said there weren’t too many positives, and I’m serious. Let’s run through all of things Boston can feel good about from Game 5: Carl Soderberg played pretty well, Tuukka Rask bounced back strong after letting in six goals in Game 4, and, well, that’s about it.
The shift from Milan Lucic, Nathan Horton and David Krejci that set up the Zdeno Chara goal was an excellent surge of effort, but overall, the “Hulk” line looked more like the Bruce Banner line. Lots of potential, but no punch.
–I didn’t understand those who questioned Claude for inserting Soderberg into the lineup, because for one, Kaspars Daugavins was hurting this team, and for two, Jordan Caron had just 18 points in 47 AHL games this season and absolutely did not deserve to play in the Stanley Cup Final. And sure enough, Soderberg played better than even I expected. He helped create two early scoring chances and ended up facing the tall task of filling in for the irreplaceable Bergeron. He didn’t excel, exactly, but he looked unaffected by the big stage and should be OK in a straight bottom-six role in Game 6.
–Soderberg also gave the best quote in possibly the history of locker room quotes, as recorded by Matt Kalman. After everything Soderberg went through to get to Boston, the Swede was asked if playing in the Stanley Cup Final made the whole ordeal worth it.
His answer? “I have to go shower now.”
–Joel Quenneville said he didn’t think there was a “defining blow” that knocked Toews out of the game, but I’m pretty sure the coach underestimates the amount of video we have at our disposal. You’d have a hard time convincing me it wasn’t Johnny Boychuk’s car-crash-level hit in front of the net that knocked Toews out of the game. (Though Seidenberg did sandwich Toews against the glass pretty good after that hit.)
As to whether the hit was illegal or whether it “targeted the head,” I think Brendan Shanahan’s crew would have a tough time proving that. It looked like Boychuk hit the “TOEWS” on the back of the captain’s shoulders, and any and all head contact was a result of whiplash. If Rick Nash didn’t get suspended for a worse hit on Tomas Kopecky in the regular season, I don’t think Boychuk gets disciplined during the Stanley Cup Final. When it comes to supplemental discipline, you’re best to just leave your own feelings out of it and try to use the league’s history to figure out the future. Or you could just close your eyes and throw a dart toward a piece of paper with a line down the middle and a “Y” and an “N” on either side. I’m pretty sure that’s what Shanahan does.
–Rask, as previously mentioned, had a strong bounceback performance after giving up six goals in Game 4. He was in position for the first goal before it took a 90-degree turn off a broken stick, and he was partially interfered with by Dennis Seidenberg just before Patrick Kane beautifully roofed the second goal. I don’t know that Seidenberg affected the play, but regardless, there wasn’t much Rask could do to stop that one.
And after the game, Rask was as critical of the team’s play as he’s ever been. According to ESPN’s Joe McDonald, Rask said of the Bruins’ extra jump in the third period: “It’s kind of sad that we’ve got to lose a guy like [Bergeron] to wake the team up and start battling out there.”
It would be controversial … if it weren’t 100 percent accurate. Rask has seen his team’s overall effort level fluctuate way too much than it should at this time of the year, and he’s witnessed the first period of Game 2, the first two periods of Game 5 and pretty much the entirety of Game 4. He knows it’s not good enough at this stage, and it’d be hard to criticize him for telling it like it is.
–My Twitter timeline was abuzz with folks full of rage when Michael Frolik tripped Torey Krug just before the empty-net goal. To that I say, “Phooey.” The Bruins had absolutely no composure in the final two minutes of the game, unable to even control the puck in the offensive end long enough for Rask to skate to the bench. Getting a 15-second power play at the end of the game wouldn’t have magically settled them down.
–David Krejci has been the Bruins’ best offensive forward all postseason long, so it’d be wrong to get on him too much, but his decision to pass rather than shoot from the high slot in the waning seconds of the second period was just mind-boggling. To that point, Crawford really hadn’t been tested at all, which was really unacceptable after he looked like a struggling Pee Wee in Game 4. A goal is not guaranteed on any shot, but a soft pass back to the blue line that got broken up to kill any chance of scoring before hitting the locker room was the wrong way to go. Apparently, Krejci hasn’t caught up on The Office.
–Krejci also went 2-for-13 on the faceoff dot. Sports are one big mystery.
–We all like hockey. That’s why we’re here. That’s why I’m rambling, that’s why you’re reading, that’s why they’re playing. We like hockey. But sometimes, you just need the expert’s take on what happened, the word from someone who’s out there actually doing the battling, someone who has forgotten more about hockey than the rest of us will ever know. So without further ado, take it away, Rich Peverley!
“They scored two goals.”
“We scored one.”
“We didn’t play good enough to win the game.”
So what happened?!
“So they won.”
–Many hockey fans, especially ones in Montreal, do not like Zdeno Chara. Something tells me this photo will end up on many of their computer backgrounds by Monday morning.
—Michael Jordan is the best basketball player ever, or at least top two. Do you think we could maybe get him a jersey that doesn’t expose his midriff like some sort of hoochie?
–Anything could happen in Game 6. The Bruins have only faced elimination once this postseason, and they spent the first 58 minutes playing horribly before pulling off a miraculous comeback. The last time they faced a 3-2 deficit in the Stanley Cup Final, they scored four times in the first period to chase the opposing goalie and force a Game 7. Any type of confident statements about what will or won’t happen Monday night in Game 6 is a waste of breath, because things are going to be crazy.
The Stanley Cup will be in attendance, and the Bruins will be aware. Whether they can stand up to the pressure will determine whether their season will have one more game.