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Teams set for encore to marathon
Plenty was made over the fact the Stanley Cup Final participants hadn’t played each other in more than 600 days, a product of the lockout-shortened season that prevented cross-conference play.
But Game 1 gave the Chicago Blackhawks and Boston Bruins more than enough time to get acquainted, as it went well into a third overtime at United Center on Wednesday night. Chicago prevailed more than 112 minutes in, 4-3, after the puck deflected off Blackhawks forward Andrew Shaw’s shin pad and into the net.
“We know them pretty well,” Shaw said after practice on Friday as the teams prepared for Saturday's Game 2 here (8 p.m. ET).
“We knew they were going to be a phenomenal team, and they went out there and showed it. It’s going to be a great battle from here on out for the Cup.”
As these two teams got to know each other again after their long separation, maybe no two foes got aquainted better than Shaw and towering Boston defenseman Zdeno Chara.
The two jostled several times in Game 1, leading to a high-sticking penalty called against Chara, drawn by Shaw in the second period.
Bruins coach Claude Julien said after Wednesday’s game that Shaw “embellishes” such contact.
“Shaw, he's a competitive kid (and) plays a hard game,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville. “He knows there's rewards by going to the front of the net (and into the) hard areas. He's got a relentless attitude, approach to it.”
Added Shaw: “He’s going to push me. I’m going to push him.”
While Shaw likely will continue to tussle with Chara, there is something the Blackhawks would like not to see any more of: too-many-men-on-the-ice penalties.
Chicago was whistled for two of those bench minors in overtime.
Chara came an inch or two away from ending the game as the Hawks were a man down after the second too-many-men infraction. His slap shot rung off the post just as time expired in the second OT.
“That’s two too many,” Chicago defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson said. “Going into the Finals, you really shouldn’t have penalties like that. That’s our own fault. That’s not the ref’s fault.”
In the entire regular season, the Blackhawks had two too-many-men penalties.
“Kind of a weird thing,” Quenneville said. “One guy came onto the ice, got hit with the puck. The other one, throw it to fatigue, it was late in the period. It can happen, but we were fortunate to dodge two bullets at very important times.”
Much of the focus on the two off days following Wednesday's marathon has been on the health of Bruins forward Nathan Horton. He remains day to day with an undisclosed injury, which reportedly is a badly injured left shoulder.
Minus that one possible personnel change, there seems little mystery when it comes to these teams.
“We almost played two games against them now,” Hjalmarsson said. “We are pretty similar. We both have good goalies and similar defenses, too. I think it’s going to be tough to score goals. I think there’s a chance for a couple more overtime games.”