The Blackhawks did what the Penguins couldn’t against the Bruins.
And the difference in the particulars along those lines _ The Penguins managed two goals in four-plus games against Boston and the Blackhawks potted 17 in six
games plus overtimes in their subsequent series against the Bruins _ was staggering.
On- and off-the-record conversations with Penguins' players, coaches and front office types revealed five factors the Pens’ perceived as critical in their stunning
inability to score goals against the Bruins in the Eastern Conference Final.
Those were, in no particular order:
--The job Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask did on rebound control throughout the series.
--The Pens’ inability to consistently get players to the net.
--The Pens’ inability to get pucks to the net on the relatively rare occasions when they managed to get players to the net.
--The Pens’ power play went south.
--Frustration on the part of those who were supposed to be scoring goals became a factor and exacerbated the problem as the series progressed.
The most significant of these was clearly the Pens’ inability to get traffic in front of Rask, and to cash in on the subsequent tips, rebounds and screens that traffic
That wasn’t by design, in case you were wondering.
The coaches never stopped exhorting the players to get to the net and the players never stopped trying to get to the net; they just didn’t get there nearly often enough.
One Pens’ participant explained what went wrong thusly: “You put on a pair of skates and try to get around Chara.”
Chicago was having the same problem with monster Boston defenseman Zdeno Chara through three games in the Stanley Cup Final.
The Bruins led the series two games to one at that juncture. The Blackhawks managed one goal combined in Games 2 and 3. And Chara had been on the ice for just one of only five Blackhawks goals through the first three games.
Thereafter, the series shifted about 180 degrees.
Over the final three games _ all Blackhawks victories _ Chicago scored 12 goals and Chara was on the ice for 10 of them.
That’s almost unimaginable, but it happened.
And the area in the vicinity of Rask’s crease wasn’t just available, it was exploited repeatedly.
So what changed?
An injury Chara may have been attempting to play through was a potential factor.
“I’m not thinking about my physical status, sorry,” Chara told reporters in the immediate aftermath of Chicago’s Cup-clinching victory in Game 6.
But a bigger factor was clearly the Blackhawks’ determination as a team to find a way to get
to the net.
They didn’t succumb to frustration when there was every reason to after Game 3.
That was the biggest difference between how the Penguins approached the Bruins and how the Blackhawks attacked the Bruins.
The Blackhawks just kept coming and, beyond that, found a way not to be denied (the Penguins kept coming and kept coming up empty).
The Blackhawks won their second Cup in four seasons as much on mental toughness, on an individual willingness to pay the required physical price and on a collective resolve to get done what had to get done as anything else.
It’s a little clichéd to say the Blackhawks wanted it a little more than the Penguins but in retrospect, the Blackhawks did.
As the Sidney Crosby-Era Penguins look to improve in their continued quest for a second Cup, a look within seems as appropriate a place to begin as any.