Go ahead and question Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville for having Brandon Bollig on the ice for overtime of Saturday night’s 2-1 loss to the Bruins in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final.
You wouldn’t be a good Chicago sports fan if you didn’t second-guess something.
But remember this was the same guy who earned praise for juggling the lines in Game 1’s triple-overtime thriller, the coach whose experience you want pushing buttons in a series bound to go seven games.
Most of Quenneville’s unorthodox moves work. Some don’t. You can’t consider him smart when they do and dumb when they backfire.
His decision to play Bollig over Viktor Stalberg for the second straight game invited city-wide scrutiny when Bollig’s failure to play the puck out of the zone led to Daniel Paille’s game-winner at 13:48 of overtime.
“We didn’t get there in time and bang-bang,” said Quenneville, who insisted Bollig played “fine.”
Truth is, it never should have mattered how well Bollig played in OT or in his 8 minutes, 42 seconds of ice time.
The Hawks have too many stars for a Cup Final game to come down to misplay of a sub.
Sure, the Bruins won because they capitalized on Bollig’s mistake, but they return to Boston with the series even because they outplayed the Hawks overall after the first period. Bollig wasn’t the reason the Hawks managed just nine shots in the final two periods.
“It had nothing to do with them turning it on, I think we just started letting them do whatever they wanted,” captain Jonathan Toews said. “Then in overtime, we were turning pucks over, they had their way, and obviously that’s reason they scored the goal.”
The Hawks and Bruins now have played 185 minutes and 58 seconds, and each scored five goals. Based on that, this series promises to include so much overtime that the NHL players union will file a grievance. The only people in Chicago and Boston able to truly enjoy this are bartenders and TV executives.
This loss hurts, but is hardly fatal.
“We had legs, we had some jump,” Patrick Sharp said, “and then I’m not quite sure, but for whatever reason, they took over the second half of the game.”
Speaking of Sharp, he put himself in the Conn Smythe conversation when he scored the Hawks’ lone goal at the 11:22 mark of the first period with a laser from inside the right circle past Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask. The traffic in front of Rask was worse than Madison Street post-game, thanks mostly to Michal Handzus, who obstructed Rask’s view enough for Sharp to zip the puck past him.
“We came out throwing pucks to the net,” Sharp said. “I got it, spun it and seemed to get it there.”
The goal gave Sharp as many as anybody in the playoffs with nine, tying Bruins center David Krejci. Talk about a Sharpie that makes a lasting impression.
The Hawks fed off Sharp’s energy to play the opening 20 minutes as if they thought sudden-death extended from Game 1. They outshot the Bruins 19-4 – a team-high six by Sharp. The Hawks were so relentless early, I facetiously wondered if they had worn themselves out for an inevitable overtime session. The longer the second period tilted in favor of the Bruins, who imposed their own pace, the less crazy of a thought that became.
Did the league unintentionally but indirectly help the Bruins regain their composure?
Officials held up a no-goal call by officials at the 12:32 mark of the first period. The league reviewed after it appeared Marian Hossa had pushed the puck by Rask’s pads across the goal line. On NHL.com, an explanation said “the referee had blown the play dead.”
“I thought the whistle was a little quick, but it is what it is,” Toews said.
Besides depriving the Hawks a goal, the lull of several minutes robbed them of momentum, too. The Bruins stubbornly hung around, resembling the defensive team Boston recognized as the Hawks managed a meager four shots in the second period. With 5 minutes, 2 second until the second intermission, the seemingly inevitable equalizer cam when Chris Kelly knocked in a rebound past Crawford to make it 1-1.
In what is becoming a theme, both goaltenders took turns saving their team in the third. Without Rask, the Hawks might have led 4-0 after the first period. Without Crawford, the Hawks would have succumbed their lead to a Bruins team that outplayed them over the final 40 minutes.
Neither budged, creating extra hockey again in what already has been an extraordinary series.
“They’re a good team, and they’re going to get stuff once in awhile,” Crawford said.
Now the Bruins have momentum and home ice. But in this series, we have learned that hardly matters.
Stanley Cup Finals
Blackhawks at Bruins
(Series tied 1-1)
When: 7 p.m. Monday
TV: NBC Sports