CHICAGO – If you wandered away from your television after the first period of Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final, you might've thought the Chicago Blackhawks were on their way to a walk-in-the-park victory. Really, it wasn't even close at that point.
However, things changed rather quickly and now Chicago faces questions after a 2-1 overtime loss to the Boston Bruins to make it a 1-1 series in the Cup Final.
Chicago not only out-shot Boston 19-4, but also out-attempted the Bruins by a staggering 30-5 margin in the opening stanza. With a 1-0 lead everything seemed in control. Even the Blackhawks' anemic power play looked better in the first.
If not for Tuukka Rask and an intent-to-blow call that appeared to cost Chicago a second goal, the Blackhawks could have had a more comfortable lead for the rest of the game.
Rask stood tall to keep his team in striking distance and when the puck dropped on the second period, so too did the Blackhawks' intensity apparently.
Over the last two periods of regulation, Chicago had just nine shots total – four in the second period and five in the third -- and never really threatened often enough. Some of that was due to terrific defense and emboldened physical play from Boston, but more than anything perhaps, the Blackhawks took their foot off the gas.
“I thought we slowed ourselves down [in the last two periods],” Chicago head coach Joel Quenneville said. “I don't think we got the puck behind them, we were in front of them too much. I think that played into their hands.”
Then the power-play woes showed up again on a man-advantage in each of the second and third periods.
“We lost a little momentum on the next one or two [power plays],” Quenneville said.
The power-play struggles were not surprising, as it's been a consistent source of frustration for Chicago in the postseason. However its failures while playing 5-on-5 offers a new concern heading into Game 3 on the road.
Some of Chicago's best postseason performers were rather quiet, including Bryan Bickell, who managed just one shot on goal in Game 2. After stretches of dominance for the power forward, he hasn't managed much in the Cup Final. Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane managed just two shots a piece.
“We had everything right in that first part of the game,” Quenneville said. “We did what we were looking to do, but, hey, it's a long game. We've got to be better than that.”
Things did get better a bit in the overtime period as the Blackhawks generated six shots in 13:48, and had a few quality chances in tight.
Defensively, the Blackhawks looked mostly fine and didn't make many mistakes, but one of the few happened to come at the worst possible time.
Daniel Paille's game-winning goal was a direct result of a defensive-zone turnover. That one mistake was the difference.
Chicago also has to consider how narrowly it avoided defeat in Game 1 when preparing for Games 3 and 4 in Boston. With how evenly-matched these two teams are, the Blackhawks can't afford to have such an inconsistent effort again if they want to win the Stanley Cup.