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The real 3 stars of Game 3
Marian Hossa was a late scratch for the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final on Monday, but I’m not even sure the team’s co-leader in points in these playoffs could have saved them in a relatively easy 2-0 win for the Boston Bruins, who moved to within two wins of their second Cup in three seasons.
Daniel Paille, the savior of Game 2, got on the board first for Boston, with a goal 2:13 into the second period. And that was all the offense Boston needed, thanks to another shutout from Tuukka Rask, who has stopped 282 of his last 290 shots, dating back to the Bruins' clinching win over New York in the Eastern Conference semifinals. But just for good measure, Patrice Bergeron's power-play goal late in the second sealed the win.
All of that being said, none of those guys made my three stars for the night. (If you haven’t learned from Game 1 or Game 2, this isn’t your typical three stars post.) As for who did... read ‘em and weep:
FIRST STAR: Home-Ice Advantage
The Bruins have been outstanding at home in the playoffs, and their first home game of this series was no different. Boston entered Game 3 having won six straight games on home ice, dating back to a 2-1 loss in Game 5 of the first round against Toronto (more than a month ago), and now that number is up to seven.
Now, I’ve been at TD Garden for a Bruins playoff game — though I’m not always good luck; my last appearance came when Joel Ward and the Capitals ended Boston's Cup defense last year — and it’s really an incredible atmosphere. And Monday, as you might expect, looked no different.
From the start of Rene Rancourt’s classic national anthem to the sounding of the final horn, the Bruins faithful were engaged, and the crowd clearly had its desired impact. This team just doesn’t seem to lose at home — especially not in the Cup Finals, where they’ve won four in a row since 2011, by a combined score of 19-3 — and that could spell bad news for Chicago.
After losing Game 2 at the United Center, the Blackhawks are going to need a win at TD Garden to win the series, and between that rabid crowd and Rask’s continued brilliance, that W might not be easy to come by.
SECOND STAR: TD Garden Pranksters
Speaking of home-ice advantage, Bruins fans, in addition to being passionate, can be kind of funny. Monday provided two instances of fan humor at its best. The first came from one fan, who used a sly network name when he created a WiFi hotspot from his phone:
Then there was this guy, mocking Pierre McGuire and Chicago coach Joel Quenneville during an in-game interview.
Funny joke, bro. But your team won, so we’ll let it slide.
THIRD STAR: Bruins Penalty Kill
Really, it’s tough to say whether it’s the effectiveness of the Bruins’ penalty kill or the Blackhawks’ futility with the man advantage that’s to blame, but Chicago’s power play has been worthless in this series so far.
After going 0-for-5 on the power play Monday, the Blackhawks are now 0-for-11 in the series and 0-for-20 dating back to Bryan Bickell's second-period power-play goal in Game 2 against Los Angeles. In the third period alone on Monday, Chicago missed out on three power-play chances with the game still up for grabs.
Meanwhile, Boston’s PK unit has continued to be stellar, even after it lost one of the top members when Gregory Campbell broke his leg — and then epically soldiered on to finish the shift — against Pittsburgh in the conference finals. David Krejci has filled in seamlessly since the team lost Campbell, and after Monday's game, Boston has now killed off 27 consecutive penalties.
To have a chance in this series, Chicago has to block out the Bruins’ home crowd, it has to solve Rask, and it has to find some success on the power play, and I’m not sure the Blackhawks will be able to do any of those things — much less all of them.