The Chicago Blackhawks were supposed to play the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Stanley Cup, according to most hockey experts’ prognostications. The Blackhawks held up to their end of the bargain, but the Penguins were stopped short in the Eastern Conference finals by the Bruins.
Not only did the Bruins beat Pittsburgh, they beat them up, sweeping the Pens away in four games and frustrating them in the process. Following a dominant win in Game 3 against Chicago, the Cup Final is starting to look an awful lot like the conference finals.
This is not to say that the series is over. It’s far from over, and no one knows that better than the Bruins. However, the similarities between the two series — and how the Bruins have bottled both teams up — are becoming tough to ignore.
The Penguins and Blackhawks finished 1-2 in goals per game this regular season, and they have combined to score just seven goals in seven combined games against Boston. Players like Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin in the series before and Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane now have been all but silenced. The Bruins held down the Pittsburgh power play series, and they picked up right where they left off in the Cup Final, having killed off their last 27 penalties.
Now, for the first time in the Cup Final really, the Blackhawks are also starting to sound like the Penguins, not just look like them. If you ask Crosby why his club was sent home for the summer, he would probably say it’s a combination of a couple of things. The bounces didn’t go their way, and they just didn’t play well enough. Or to put it another way, it was what they weren’t doing rather than what the Bruins were doing.
Chicago is starting to go down that path as well, at least through three games of the series. In fact, they’re starting to sound a lot like the Penguins. So much, in fact, that we could play a fun game of “Who said it?” in comparing the two teams.
Who said it? “I don’t know, for whatever reason we weren’t able to capitalize. We had chances tonight — open nets — their team blocked it, or one jumped over [a] stick there on a wide-open net. There weren’t times where we were worried to be honest with you.”
Answer: Crosby after the Penguins’ Game 4 loss to the Bruins
Who said it? “They’re able to sit back and wait for us to collapse defensively. You can’t block everything. But, we made some plays we had some good shots, and had a couple of the chances went just wide. We’ve got to keep playing hard.”
Answer: Chicago goalie Corey Crawford after the Blackhawks’ Game 3 loss to the Bruins
Who said it? “I thought we did a lot of things good tonight. On the power play we had a lot of the play and pushed the pace. But it just seemed that, you know for whatever reason we can’t capitalize on the chance.”
Answer: Chicago defenseman Duncan Keith after the Blackhawks’ Game 3 loss to the Bruins
Who said it? “They’re solid. They make you earn your chances. That being said, I don’t feel like they totally shut us down. I feel like we got chances, but Rask made some big saves. They’re consistent; they don’t give you chances, you have to earn them. We earned them, but unfortunately we didn’t capitalize on them.”
Answer: Crosby (again) after the Penguins’ Game 4 loss
Who said it? “I think if we play the same way we’re going to get our chances. I thought we generated more scoring chances than them, and I thought we deserved better.”
Answer: Crosby (yet again), this time after the Penguins’ Game 3 loss.
Who said it? “Well I don’t think it’s not clicking, we definitely had good looks and we put a lot of pressure on them and made some great shots, had some good chances. Their goalie made some big saves and that’s going to happen, but I felt we stuck with it. Obviously it sucks that we didn’t score, but you try to take a positive from that.”
Answer: Pittsburgh forward James Neal following the Penguins’ Game 3 loss to the Bruins.
Who said it? “I think we felt pretty good out there, too. We knew they were going to come out a little faster in the start, but I think we weathered the storm there and I think we played a pretty solid game we just need to score some goals.”
Answer: Chicago defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson after the Blackhawks’ Game 3 loss to the Bruins.
Who said it? “I think there’s a pretty even game all round. I think there were chances both ways and they took it to us at times and we took it to them at times. So pretty even game and in the end no matter or in the outcome it’s just a matter of scoring those goals when you get opportunities.”
Answer: Chicago forward Viktor Stalberg after the Blackhawks’ Game 3 loss to the Bruins.
Of course, it’s a little risky to read too much into what professional athletes say after games. Most of it is riddled in cliches and the like, especially when a team isn’t winning. You’re never going to flat-out say the other team is the better team, but it is interesting to see the trends and similarities start to develop.
It’s clear that through three games at least, some frustration is starting to set in for Chicago. You can credit the Bruins for that, even if the opposition isn’t ready to do so.
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