BOSTON – If the Chicago Blackhawks are going to seize control of this Stanley Cup final, they’re going to have to either put the brakes on a troubling trend or ignore what might just be a statistical anomaly.
For whatever reason, the Blackhawks have not been very good in any Game 3 during this year’s playoff. In the case of the first round against the Minnesota Wild and the Western Conference final against the Los Angeles Kings, Game 3 represented their only loss of the series. In the second round against the Detroit Red Wings, they lost Game 3 en route to falling into a 3-1 deficit in the series. They’ve been outscored 9-4 in the three games and lost one of them in overtime.
Coincidence? Perhaps. But the troubling thing about it from the Blackhawks perspective is that all three of those games were on the road. Since the Blackhawks won the Presidents’ Trophy, they guaranteed themselves home ice advantage in every round of the playoffs, meaning the series has shifted away for every Game 3. Against a team such as the Bruins, the Blackhawks cannot afford to take a game to get their legs under them and get acclimatized to the new surroundings. By that time, it may be too late.
“I think when you’re at home the first two games, sometimes you get a little bit too comfortable at home,” said Patrick Kane who has one assist and nine shots in the series. “Then you come on the road, maybe it’s like a rude awakening…We’ve had three series to figure that out, learn it. We definitely want to be better (Monday), especially in the first game on the road.”
The Blackhawks had better be because the Bruins are a very difficult out at home regardless of the opponent. And, conversely, they’re 3-0 in Game 3s, with two of those wins coming on the road and one at home. They’ve outscored their opponents 9-4, the same margin by which the Blackhawks have been outscored in Game 3s.
“Stats at this time of year don’t mean a thing,” said Bruins coach Claude Julien. “No matter what we are, what they are, it’s about winning this game tonight. I don’t pay much attention to stats when it comes to that stuff. We’ve seen those things change. It just takes one game to change the stat. So I’m going to focus on what we need to do tonight.”
The Blackhawks will have a slightly different look for Game 3, inserting Viktor Stalberg into the lineup, where he’ll play on the fourth line with Marcus Kruger and Michael Frolik. Brandon Bollig had a very strong Game 1 and was effective as a physical force, particularly as overtime wore on. But in Game 2, it was his inability to contain a Brent Seabrook rim around the boards that led directly to Dan Paille’s goal in overtime.
But by inserting Stalberg, the Blackhawks are gaining some quickness while giving up some physicality. It will be interesting to see how that turns out, since the Bruins have ramped up the physical play in the series. In fact, their increase in that department was a big reason for their turnaround after a disastrous first period in Game 2. But there’s little doubt Stalberg gives the Blackhawks more versatility on the fourth line.
“I think we need some speed from (Stalberg),” said Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville. “I think we need energy. He’s a threat off the rush, in zone, defensively responsible. I think Bollig gave us a couple real strong games. You can talk about the last play. Certainly you like the predictability of his game. I thought he did a nice job. Viktor, we’re just looking for more. I think offensively, defensively, giving us some more in both those areas.”
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