Classic Stanley Cup Final opens with classic Game 1 for Blackhawks

By Brian Stubits | CBSSports.com

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CHICAGO -- As the clock struck midnight, the fairy tale that was Game 1 had to come to an end, Andrew Shaw playing the role of the prince for the Blackhawks.

The Boston Bruins and Blackhawks stretched deep into the third overtime, approaching territory hardly ever seen in Stanley Cup Final games before. The chances were being traded, back and forth they went. The ebbs and flows were as turbulent as the weather outside United Center on Wednesday night.

Eventually it was a double deflection -- off Dave Bolland first and then off Shaw and past Tuukka Rask -- that had to end it, a 4-3 Blackhawks win. How often do you see pretty goals in playoff overtime?

Problem was, Shaw was almost too tired to enjoy it.

"Obviously emotionally high but too exhausted to express it," he said after the game, basking in the glow of being the overtime hero.

That was about the only thing that was lacking in Game 1.

As far as hype goes, this year's Stanley Cup Final had as much of it as we've had in a long time. The majority of that was built around the simple fact that we have an Original Six Final for the first time in 34 years but the biggest reason the hype was deserved was because the Bruins and Blackhawks are two great teams playing great hockey.

Yet this game managed to exceed the expectations.

It can be hard for a game to live up to that kind of billing, especially a Game 1, but the Bruins and Blackhawks had no problem making sure that would happen. From the opening minutes you could just tell this game was going to be awesome. The Blackhawks came out flying, recording 13 hits in the first five minutes of the game. That's not a typo, they were really throwing around their bodies around like Gregory Campbell in front of slap shots.

However it was Boston that jumped out to the lead, a position the Bruins have been mighty used to lately. In the Eastern Conference finals they were never once behind the Penguins in their four-game sweep. They built it up to 2-0 and 3-1 before the Blackhawks came storming back. The ebb to the flow was stronger than the rumbling thunder outside, rocking the Madhouse at one point as much as the raucous crowd.

Chicago's goals were a bit fortunate between turnovers and shots of skates, but it was deserved. The Hawks went into beast mode after the first period, outshooting the Bruins by a whopping 31-14 through regulation (the final shot total favored Chicago 63-54). It was OK though, that just meant overtime hockey. Then a second overtime. Then a third. It came close to a fourth.

It was an absolute treat, as if the NHL were trying to make up for a lost start to the season all one night. The Bruins seemed to get stronger as the overtimes went on -- those late-night postgame skates really paying off for guys like Jaromir Jagr -- but the only problem was Corey Crawford was getting stronger too, even if he was approaching new territory.

"It's the longest game I've ever played," an exhausted-sounding Crawford said while planted firmly at his stall, looking just as tired as he sounded.

It wasn't much, but it was a little bit of rest well deserved. On more than four occasions in the overtime periods alone you were left with one question: How did that not go in? Besides one time when Bruins forward Kaspars Daugavins got a little too cute in front of the crease, the answer was Crawford. And luck, you have to have luck.

"Obviously there were chances back and forth, feels like anything can kinda happen at the end there," said Blackhawks defenseman Johnny Oduya, who had a goal in the third period. "We tried to take it to them, wear them down. Eventually you get a lucky bounce. That's what it is."

Knowing that makes the bitter pill that was Game 1 a little easier to swallow for the Bruins. They know they played a good game; played in a great game.

"With a little bit of luck, we could have ended it before they did," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "But that's the name of the game. They got a good break on their tying goal going off one of our skates. That's the way the game goes. Some nights you get the break going your way, some nights you don't.

"As far as I'm concerned, two good teams tonight that played extremely hard. Unfortunately there's a loser and a winner."

Fortunately for us, it happened. Even more fortunate is that we could have six more games of this to go.

 
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