Bruins head coach Claude Julien usually isn’t one to make too many in-game adjustments with his lineup. He did so, on a hunch, Saturday night in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final, and that’s arguably the biggest reason the B’s are headed back to Boston with the series tied 1-1.
After a horrible start to Game 2 where the Bruins were practically run out of the building by the Blackhawks, Julien shuffled his lines a bit. He adjusted his third line, putting Daniel Paille and Tyler Seguin on the wings with Chris Kelly centering those two.
The results were pretty fantastic for the Bruins.
The line ended up scoring both goals, including Paille’s overtime game-winner as the B’s won 2-1 to send the series back to TD Garden tied at one game apiece.
Julien obviously didn’t like what he saw after a first period that saw the Bruins outshot 19-4 by Chicago, including the game’s first goal off the stick of Patrick Sharp. After a little “chat” with his team during the first intermission, Julien changed things up.
“We didn’t have much going,” Julien said after the game. “At one point I thought that line would give us something. They responded well.
“It’s a hunch from a coach. I know Dan is a great skater, can make a lot of things happen. Seguin after the first period was one of the guys that picked up his game. Kelly was one of the guys that was good right from the start. I put those three guys together and they answered.”
That trio hasn’t exactly set the world on fire since the playoffs began. Paille has been fine, but Kelly entered Game 2 without a point for the entire postseason, while Seguin had registered just a goal and three assists.
That all changed in the second period, though. Thanks to a relentless forecheck from Seguin, Paille was able to control the puck behind the Boston net. He stickhandled around Nick Leddy and got to the front of the net. His shot was stopped by Corey Crawford, but Kelly was there to jump on the rebound and put it by the Chicago goalie.
It was obviously a welcomed change for Kelly who was coming off of a minus-3 showing in Game 1. The frustration mounts for any player in that situation, but Kelly insisted on trying to find any way to contribute. He did that in a big way Saturday night.
“Everyone would love to score and score consistently,” Kelly said. “For whatever reason, I haven’t. I try to stay positive.”
“I think he’s been snake bitten for quite a while,” Julien said. “When you don’t score, you eventually get scored on, and the minuses keep creeping up. That was something that certainly bothered him.”
That goal appeared to jump-start the line and the team as a whole, as the Bruins started to tilt the ice from the Kelly goal on. That carried over into the overtime, where the B’s continued to generate chances. For much of the overtime period, however, it looked like the Bruins would suffer a fate similar to that of their Game 1 heartbreaker. There were so many missed opportunities that you couldn’t help but think you were looking at a carbon copy of the series opener.
Not in Game 2, though. This was the Bruins’ game to win, and it was once again the new-and-improved Kelly line that ended it. Paille beat Crawford at 13:48 of the OT, thanks to a brilliant cross-ice pass from Seguin.
It was only fitting that Kelly, Paille and Seguin were all on the ice for the game-winner. Julien’s decision to change things up paid off, but only because that trio picked their game up at the right time.
That’s how hunches turn into really, really smart decisions.