Wow. That one was exhausting just to watch. The Bruins went up 2-0 in the first 21 minutes on a pair of Milan Lucic goals, and they led 3-1 with less than 13 minutes left in regulation, but they couldn’t make the two-goal lead stand up. Dave Bolland cut it to 3-2, and then Johnny Oduya tied the game with 7:46 to go. Nearly 60 minutes of hockey later, with 7:52 left in the third overtime, Andrew Shaw scored on a double deflection to give the Blackhawks a 1-0 series lead.
Here are five thoughts on Game 1.
1. A lot is going to be made of Kaspars Daugavins’ missed opportunity in the third overtime, just minutes before Shaw scored the game-winner. Daugavins caught a pass on the doorstep, tried making a move to his backhand to get around a sliding Corey Crawford, and wound up having the puck poked off his stick by Oduya at the last second. It looked like Daugavins had enough room to simply redirect the puck past Crawford before he got across to the post, but instead he settled the puck.
Once he did that, going to the backhander against the grain was the right move. And it would’ve worked had it not been for Oduya’s diving poke check. You can question Daugavins’ decision to settle the puck instead of going for the redirect, but he shouldn’t be crucified for this. It was far from the only questionable decision by a Bruin tonight, and this one still nearly resulted in a goal.
2. Someone who deserves a lot more criticism is Torey Krug. He’s been arguably the best story of these playoffs, and what he did in the Rangers series is something none of us will ever forget. But he was bad Wednesday night. He had a bad turnover in the first period that, fortunately for him, didn’t cost the Bruins, but then he had another in the third that did cost them. Instead of making the safe play up the boards, Krug tried to wing an aerial pass diagonally through the neutral zone. Shaw picked it off with ease, re-entered the Bruins’ zone, and set up Bolland for a one-timer that cut the Bruins’ lead to 3-2.
Don’t be surprised if Matt Bartkowski gets the nod over Krug in Game 2. In fairness to Krug, this was really his first bad game. But Bartkowski, who hasn’t played since Andrew Ference returned to the lineup for Game 1 against Pittsburgh, was playing very well and was playing more minutes than Krug. With Krug’s offense cooling off over the last five games, it might not be a bad idea to make the switch to Bartkowski. Bartkowski is better in his own end, and he can handle bigger minutes if the Bruins want to spread out ice time a little bit more.
3. The Bruins were pretty fortunate that the game even got to overtime. The Blackhawks absolutely dominated the second and third periods, and their comeback felt almost inevitable. Shots on goal in those two periods were 31-14 Chicago, and total shots attempted were 59-23. The Blackhawks dominated puck possession, and it looked like the Bruins were just hanging on for dear life. The Bruins played better in overtime, and they certainly had chances to end it, but so did Chicago. The Blackhawks just happened to have one of their chances go in before the Bruins. Had the Bruins won — even with the solid overtimes — it would’ve felt like a stolen game simply because of how badly they got outplayed in the second and third periods.
4. The Bruins could be in big trouble if Nathan Horton has to miss any more time. He left the game late in the first overtime with what looked like some sort of upper body injury and did not return. Horton is second on the Bruins in points this postseason, and his importance is magnified by the fact that they don’t have a ton of scoring depth. If Horton’s out, Tyler Seguin is the likely candidate to move up. We know Seguin can score, but he hasn’t done it in this year’s playoffs, and it’s probably wishful thinking to expect him to start now.
We also don’t have any reason to expect Rich Peverley or Chris Kelly to suddenly start scoring. The Merlot Line stepped up against the Rangers, but the fourth line isn’t the Merlot Line without Gregory Campbell. If Horton’s out, we might see the third line’s utter uselessness finally catch up to the Bruins. One of the reasons the Bruins survived Horton’s absence in the 2011 Stanley Cup Final was that their third-line forwards were producing. That isn’t the case this year.
5. As you can see, there were a lot of negatives for the Bruins in Game 1. The series is far from over, though. It would be easy to say that such a heartbreaking loss should doom the Bruins, but the fact is that we really don’t have anything to support that. Remember the 2011 Cup Final? The Bruins didn’t play any triple-overtime games, but they did lose not one, but two, heartbreaking games to start the series. They lost Game 1 with just 18.5 seconds left in regulation, and then lost Game 2 in overtime. The Bruins have plenty of time to recover both physically and mentally before Saturday’s Game 2. The most worrisome takeaway from this game should be Horton’s injury, not the physical or emotional toll.