The hits were coming in rapid succession, a somewhat unusual occurrence for the Chicago Blackhawks, in Game 1 on Wednesday night.
Most of them were timely and good ideas. Others were a bit ill advised, leading to mistakes and, in one case, a Boston Bruins goal. And therein lies the fine line that the Blackhawks want to dance in Game 2: if the hit’s there, go for it, but not at the expense of getting too far away from your game.
The Blackhawks liked their start in Game 1, which they came back to win 4-3 in triple overtime. And they’ll dish out what hits they can to try and match the Bruins’ physicality. But the bottom line is, the Blackhawks are not the Bruins; so hitting is fine, as long as it doesn’t lead to a mistake.
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“You want to show that physical presence, you want to come out and show you can be that tough and throw that body around. Maybe we got a little too carried away with it at the start, but we kept things rolling, kept our cool and got in the game,” Dave Bolland said. “That’s how you get in the game a little bit more.”
Patrick Kane was fine with the start, too, saying all the hitting may have been part of that initial rush of Game 1 commencing.
“I think that's probably just adrenaline more than anything coming in to play, especially first game of the finals: your first couple shifts you see a lot of players running around and hitting each other,” Kane said. “I thought we had a great start to the game. I think that probably wears off a little bit as you go into your overtime periods. You can kind of see the pace fall off a little bit as time went on during the game. But if we have that start again in Game 2, I think we'd all be happy with it.”
Indeed, the Blackhawks were very much into the game right away, as was the United Center crowd. The hitting certainly bolstered the emotions on the ice and through the stands. But sometimes, going for the body instead of the puck, can backfire. On one early hit, Niklas Hjalmarsson hit David Krejci behind the goal. But Krejci got the puck away, leading to quick passes and a Milan Lucic goal just seconds later.
“Obviously there’s a fine line. You have to push the envelope, but not too far,” Brandon Bollig said. “You want to take it as far as you can but definitely stay out of the box and stay disciplined. That’s one of our focus points. Obviously they came out and played their game, but we did our job. We want to counteract their game and use our speed as well.”
Yes, the Blackhawks are all about their speed game. Once they combined the physicality and speed in Game 1, emphasis on the latter, they were back to their style. They were moving, they were creating, they were taking advantage of Bruins mistakes.
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The Blackhawks know what got them here. They outhit the Bruins in Game 1 but that’s not going to happen often. If the hit is there, they’ll dish it out, but not at the expense of straying too far from their forte.
“You want to let the other team know you can play physical, too, and play hard,” Michael Frolik said. “After that, you want to be disciplined and don’t do anything stupid. But if it’s a clean hit, you want to finish your checks. You want a good start and a good feeling. Whenever you hit someone, you feel good.”