A thrilling, but heart-breaking Game 1 triple-overtime loss has the Bruins reeling in the 2013 Stanley Cup Finals. Though Boston played well enough to get the victory, a determined Hawks squad stormed back late to snatch Game 1 away from the black and gold. Making matters worse for the Bruins is the fact that in addition to Gregory Campbell being out injured, it now appears as if key forward Nathan Horton is seriously hurt. Horton’s impact for Boston this entire post-season run has been remarkable, and having the big winger at less than 100% isn’t good news for Boston’s Cup bid. With Wednesday’s losing selection on the Bruins, our record for the featured plays now falls to just 15-14 throughout these playoffs, but 49-37 since January. We’ll look to ensure profitability this playoff season with a strong finish for the remaining Cup tilts. Game 2 goes Saturday night, and read on below for our official thoughts and selection for what should be a pivotal game.
Boston Bruins (+130) @ Chicago Blackhawks (-150)
The opening forty minutes of Game 1 unfolded the way I expected the series to. Boston was in complete control, stifling the star players of Chicago and limiting their time, space, and creativity. It looked like yet another textbook outing from Claude Julien and his Bruins squad, but a couple of rare mistakes and ill-advised turnovers cost them what would’ve been a massive Game 1 road victory. The Hawks are a team that can easily capitalize on such mistakes, and as a result they snatched Game 1 from the Bruins.
Moving into tonight’s affair the big question for the Bruins is the status of key forward Nathan Horton. Horton, Lucic, and Krejci has been Boston’s best trio throughout the post-season, and losing the big winger would be devastating for a Boston team that has had some trouble scoring. Judging by Boston’s skate yesterday, it appears as if Horton will tough it out, but just how effective will he be? The rumors circulating his injury report that it is likely a dislocated shoulder, and apparently Horton as played through this type of injury many times before. Horton suffers from chronic left shoulder subluxation, meaning his shoulder frequently pops out of the socket. It was popped back into place at the end of Game 1, and his official status is day-to-day. Hockey players are widely regarded as the toughest of all professional athletes, and this is certainly another example of that.
With Horton in the line-up, it helps the Bruins in that they won’t need to shake up their lines all that much. The top unit centered by David Krejci has been dynamite, and expect another solid outing from those three. Milan Lucic was once considered a buyout candidate mid-way through the regular season and was even healthy scratched at times. But in the playoffs, the rugged winger has been an absolute force. Chicago had no answer for the size of Boston’s forwards below the goal-line and the Bruins could cycle the puck at will. When their big wingers get those feet churning, that’s when they are most effective. Expect Boston to keep doing that to produce a more complete Game 2 effort.
The Bruins defeat in Game 1 was mostly self-inflicted. They possessed complete control in all facets, and a couple of costly turnovers wiped away what was a solid road effort. Tuukka Rask was again as good as advertised, but Chicago’s Corey Crawford matched the Finnish netminder. Boston has to do a better job of utilizing their size, and getting it to the crease area in order to create rebound, and second-chance opportunities. The Bruins do have the potential for all this, it’s just a matter of bringing it for the full sixty minutes.
One of the encouraging factors I noticed with the Horton injury was the play of Tyler Seguin. The young Bruin has had a dismal season after such high hopes. He’s only netted one goal all post-season but seemed full of energy Wednesday night. If Seguin can bust out of this slump and become a front-line player, he could be a real difference-maker in this series.
With the winner of Game 1 going on to win the Cup 76% of the time, the Bruins know just how vital tonight’s contest is. While they were the better team for much of regulation in Game 1, it did them no good. Expect a smarter, and more complete effort from Boston tonight. Horton will play through his injury, and if he can’t be fully effective, I expect Tyler Seguin to bust out of his slump in a big way. He’s too talented to be this quiet, and showed some very encouraging signs in the overtimes of Game 1. Ultimately, the Bruins did an exemplary job of minimizing Chicago’s chances and effectiveness and a couple of mistakes cost them a winnable opening game. Even if the Bruins do get out-played, you know Tuukka Rask will give his team a shot at winning the game, the kid is that good. Expect Boston to correct those self-inflicted errors, and at a bargain +130 price once again, they represent solid road value in a winnable Game 2.
PICK = Boston (+130)