Judging the value of stats on checking is subjective, but going by results of first two games, it is a tempting gauge
Boston Bruins’ centre Chris Kelly (23) checks Chicago Blackhawks’ defenceman Michal Rozsival (32) during Game 3 of the NHL Stanley Cup final in Boston on Monday night. Daniel Paille and Patrice Bergeron had second-period goals and Tuukka Rask stopped all 27 shots he faced as the Bruins won 2-0 to take a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven-series. Game 4 is Wednesday night in Boston. The Blackhawks played Monday’s game without forward Marian Hossa, who was reportedly injured in the pre-game warmup skate. — Photo by The Associated Press
As the NHL playoffs wind down and referees put away their whistles, the hit parade is in full gear.
The Chicago Blackhawks led the battle of hits in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup final, edging the Boston Bruins 61 to 59 in a thrilling matchup that went to triple overtime. In Game 2, the Bruins outhit the Hawks 50-34 in single OT en route to tying the series at one game apiece.
The value of the statistic is debatable. Critics say judging a hit is subjective and depends on who does the counting and where.
But it is a tempting gauge when the speed of the stylish Blackhawks is matched against the grinding Bruins. There is no shortage of skill and speed in the yellow and black, but there is a touch of a blunt instrument to Boston at times as Milan Lucic cruises the ice like a great white shark and Zdeno Chara uses his long stick to harpoon the puck — or the player carrying it.
Combine that with an Energizer Bunny work ethic and the Bruins can leave a mark.
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Bruins defenceman Torey Krug believes the hitting in Saturday’s Game 2 helped turn the tide against Chicago.
“I think it’s fair to say they were feeling pretty good about themselves after the first period and we were a little upset with how we played,” Krug said Sunday as the series switched to Boston for Game 3 on Monday and Game 4 on Wednesday.
“Just getting a couple of those body checks early in the period. You saw (Bruins defenceman) Johnny Boychuk had a few big hits and that was really important for us, especially the way they had us clamped down in our own zone.
“You see a guy with a big hit and, all of a sudden, things change a little bit so we started taking care of the puck and getting our forecheck going and everything turned from there.”
On the other side, the Blackhawks downplayed the impact of the increased physical play.
“We know they have some guys that are playing physical,” said Chicago defenceman Niklas Hjalmarsson.
“You just try to keep your head up, not to get hit too hard. But it’s something I’m used to. I don’t really think about that too much.”
Chicago’s players say there is more to winning the physical battle than just finishing checks.
“I don’t really think a whole lot about it,” Blackhawks defenceman Duncan Keith said of the hit count. “I definitely think being physical is something that you need to have. But whether they get more hits, we get more hits, I don’t go and look at that stat at the end of the game.
“I think we want to be physical, but also more than anything we want to be hard to play against. That’s being hard in the puck areas, trying to win those 1-on-1 puck battles, races for the puck.
“Boston’s got a physical team. We’ve played physical teams in Los Angeles, as well. I think for us it’s about being strong 1-on-1 with the puck, trying to be tough to get the puck.”