MORRISSEY: Grueling Blackhawks-Bruins Final might come down to survival of fittest
BY RICK MORRISSEY email@example.com July 1, 2013 3:10PM
The puck, shot by Boston Bruins left wing Daniel Paille (20) deflects off the goal post and into the net past Chicago Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford (50) for the game-winning goal in overtime during Game 2 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Finals, Saturday, June 15, 2013, in Chicago. The Bruins won 2-1. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast) ORG XMIT: CXA154
BOSTON — Before we get started on the subject of fatigue in the Stanley Cup Final, let me anticipate what surely will be some people’s feelings on it:
Yes, I know that some of you work three jobs just to make ends meet and that a three-overtime game pales in comparison on the weariness scale.
Yes, I know that if you were being paid $3 million a year, you’d be willing to do just about anything on skates, including allowing the Bruins’ 6-9 ice monster, Zdeno Chara, to run you into the boards like a semitrailer saying hello to a subcompact. So exhaustion? Pffft. What’s that?
Yes, I know you’re not going to feel sorry for a hockey player who has screaming quadriceps muscles after taking part in a kid’s game.
Although all of that might be true, it doesn’t make this any less true: Two games into the Final, the Blackhawks and Bruins have been through four overtime periods, they’re tired and sore, and this brutal series very well could come down to which team is the most fit.
Or, to be more succinct: Hey, it ain’t easy.
Neither team wants you to feel sorry for it. In fact, both teams would prefer not to discuss it. Getting an NHL player to talk about his physical state is like getting a rogue state to talk about labor camps. Part of the code is to not complain about aches and pains, especially this time of year, when the rallying cry is to play, no matter what. Because, you know, it’s the Cup.
Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask said something Sunday that I hadn’t really spent much time considering. A reporter asked him what the strain of a three-overtime game is like for goaltenders compared with skaters.
“You’re standing for five hours,’’ he said. “You’re obviously not making saves all the time, but you’re still standing and being focused. It’s a lot of mental stress, and your legs get tired at some point, too, when you’re standing up for hours.’’
You sort of forgot that simple fact, didn’t you? Goalies don’t get to sit down, except between periods. I tried to think of the last time I stood for hours. Besides at the airport security line. Waitresses are on their feet a lot. But imagine doing that while wearing humongous pads that make you look like a Michelin Man who has let himself go.
The skaters get to sit down. On the other hand, they also can be knocked down, unlike goalies. After the Hawks’ first-period domination in Game 2, the Bruins put some big hits on them, and it made a difference. Pain tends to speed up the tiring process, as any boxer will tell you. The Bruins believe their forecheck started to wear down the Hawks.
“Yeah, you felt that a little bit,’’ Bruins defenseman Torey Krug said. ‘‘Just getting a couple of those body checks early in the period.’’
After overtime arrived Saturday, the Hawks’ play began to deteriorate. Their legs looked heavy, and they played sloppily. Their usual crisp passing was anything but. They had trouble getting the puck out of their zone. That’s how Daniel Paille was able to score the game-winning goal for the Bruins.
The Hawks could use about four more cardiovascular freaks like defenseman Duncan Keith in this series. He’s a playmaker and a leader, but he’s also someone whose battery refuses to die. He has been blessed with the ability to keep going when others can’t, which is why he was relatively fresh after the Game 1 marathon.
“I’ve played a lot of minutes my whole life, even as a kid growing up,’’ he said. “I want to be out on the ice. I think everybody likes to be on the ice a lot. Forty-plus minutes is a lot, but I think obviously we don’t want to have to play those types of games every game, but you take it as it comes.’’
But what if every game in this series does turn out to be that type of game? What if every game goes overtime? And what if this series goes seven games, as it easily could? Throw in travel and a lack of sleep, and it makes everything that much more . . . interesting. Game 3 is Monday night, and you’ll see people pushing their bodies to extremes.
Yes, I know some of you do that on a daily basis in the course of your job. But at least you have all your teeth.