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BOSTON – There has been plenty of fight in the Blackhawks this postseason, a big reason why they’re here in the first place. On Monday, however, it was more fizzle.
Marian Hossa was a late scratch after apparently getting hurt in warm-ups, and the Blackhawks were powerless in just about every aspect in a 2-0 loss to the Boston Bruins in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final.
The Blackhawks are now down 2-1 heading into Game 4, which is back in Boston Wednesday night. It was the second time they’ve been shut out this postseason and they haven’t scored a goal since the first period of Game 2. They’ve also lost all four of their Game 3's this postseason.
The stunning news came before the game even began, as Hossa was a late scratch. What happened isn’t clear, but several players said they were preparing all day that Hossa may not play. Still, coach Joel Quenneville said Hossa’s game status was not decided until after warmups; he’s currently listed as day-to-day with an upper-body injury.
Hossa took part in those. His replacement, Ben Smith, did not. Smith, who was told after the warmups he didn’t participate in that he was playing, “just kind of scrambled to get ready and get warm. That’s kind of been the whole thing in these seven, eight weeks with the Black Aces. They tell us to stay ready. You never know when the opportunity is going to come, and it just happened tonight.”
But with or without a prepared Black Ace, the Blackhawks’ outing was a rather forgettable one. They were listless on the power play again, struggled in the faceoff circle and hardly challenged Boston goaltender Tuukka Rask.
"We ran up against some of the best goalies in the league here. But tonight I thought we made it rather easy on (Rask) as far as traffic and finding and seeing pucks,” Quenneville said. “I think we’ve got to be better at going to the net in non-puck areas.”
Blackhawks players, however, sounded more reticent than raging about the outcome. Losing Hossa was no excuse at all, they said. They did some good things, they said. But the bottom line is, losing a guy like Hossa always hurts. And they didn’t do enough good to generate great opportunities, or prevent Boston from having plenty of them.
“We did a lot of things,” said Jonathan Toews, who centered Michael Frolik and Marcus Kruger through most of the game. “We just have a day to think about it, regroup and we have to be better in the next one and find ways to score and get the confidence back.”
Niklas Hjalmarsson said, “I think we played a pretty solid road game, we just didn’t score any goals. We had a lot of energy. We had pressure at times, but I think we can go out with our heads high. The next game is going to be huge. We know how it is to play here now, and obviously have to score some goals.”
The Blackhawks knew the atmosphere was going to be enthusiastic in Boston. They knew the Bruins would be motivated to improve to 8-2 at TD Garden this postseason and they did. Boston had quality scoring chances throughout the night – they also had more shorthanded scoring chances than the Blackhawks had power-play ones. If not for Corey Crawford, this game would’ve been worse.
On the other end, the Blackhawks just couldn’t generate much. It’s a problem they’ve rarely had this regular- and postseason, but it’s showing up at the worst possible time now. And that power play’s lack of anything continues to hurt them.
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“We didn’t score. We had a few chances but we’re in the Stanley Cup Final and, like I said, we’re not going to hang our heads about it,” Patrick Sharp said. “We’re going to continue to work and to find a way to make it productive.”
The Blackhawks are in somewhat familiar territory here, being down in a series. They were down 3-1 against Detroit in the second round and came back. But Boston isn’t Detroit and getting down 3-1 against this Bruins team could mean big trouble.
“We’re in the Stanley Cup final against a team that deserves to be here, that’s here because of the way they play physically and check away from the puck, so it’s just tough to score out there. We’ve got to find a way,” Sharp said. “We’ll think about it the next few days, how we can get better, how we can get out of it. There’s a lot of heart in here. It’s 2-1 Boston; there’s a long way to go.”