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The Quest for Lord Stanley's Cup

The Quest for Lord Stanley's Cup

Photo By Jeffrey S Levine

United Center, Game 1

The Quest for Lord Stanley's Cup

Photo By Jeffrey S Levine

Shaw and Toews in the Media Room

The Quest for Lord Stanley's Cup

Photo By Jeffrey S Levine

The Madhouse certainly lived up to its name

Game one of the Stanley Cup Finals started in Chicago at 7:22pm with raucous applause and ended the same way over four and half hours later as Andrew Shaw pushed a double deflection past Tuukka Rask in the third overtime. As cheers of "Let's go Hawks!" turned into "Let's go Home!," this Buffalo boy was not sad to see a very good Bruins team dispatched in such dramatic fashion. It may not make up for the 1999 Finals, the second longest game in Stanley Cup history, but this game was one for the ages and indicative of how closely matched these two teams are.
 
When all was said and done, almost two entire games of hockey were played, including 117 shots on net. To put that in perspective, Blackhawks alternate captain Duncan Keith logged over 48 minutes of ice time; almost an entire game. By the end, some of the best players in the world looked like they were playing rat hockey; falling a step behind, letting pucks bounce off the boards. At one point during the third overtime, defenseman Brent Seabrook was skating all alone in front of his net and fell down for no reason at all. Miraculous saves by both goaltenders, including a physics-defying shot off the post on Boston's powerplay at the end of the second OT, kept both the excitmenet and tension high.
 
"Both teams are just kicking, trying to survive. Every time you go back on the ice, you just try and get that feeling that it's just going to be that one chance that makes the difference," Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews said. "Obviously we got a big one with Shaw going to the net there. Both teams wanted to win that game and no one was going to give it up easy. We're obviously feeling pretty good about it. But it's time to go home and get some rest now.
 
For Chicago, the difference was the gritty play of Shaw. As if being asked to stare down (well, up at) Zdeno Charra all evening wasn't a large enough task, Shaw refused to quit, getting knocked down just before Michael Rozsival started what would be the final sequence of the game.
 
''We knew it wasn't going to be pretty at that point,'' Shaw said. ''You could tell both teams were physically exhausted. We've preached it: Go to the net, you'll find a way to get a greasy goal. We did a heck of a job of it there in the third overtime.''
 
While Chicago celebrated, Bruins Coach Claude Julien did his best to put the game in perspective: "We got a little stronger. We had some great looks, some great opportunities, we just didn't bury them. Eventually somebody is going to score a goal as fatigue sets in. Not disappointed in our effort. There's certain things you're going to want to fix for next game. But as far as the game is concerned, it was a hard-fought game"
 
One of the most dangerous plays for the Blackhaws came during the beginning of the second overtime as a 3-on-1 was developing at center ice. In what could easily have been a game ending odd-man rush, Jaromi Jagr crashed into Milan Lucic, taking both forwards out. Former Sabre and Welland, Ont. native Daniel Paille also helped create a good look in the first OT as he and Shawn Thornton came up on a 2-on-1 only to have Thornton's shop stopped at point blank range from Crawford.
 
Marian Hossa earned his third star honors and then some, but the play of his second-line counterpart and Buffalo native, Patrick Kane, should not go unrecognized. Although the No.1 overall pick didn't make a dent in the scoresheet, his play got stronger as he settled in after the first period's shuffling of lines. Even with the exhaustion of three periods of intense play, Kane was still weaving around defenders, crashing through the middle and curling around the net. At one point in the first OT he hammered two shots from the top of the left circle, requiring a quick glove save by Rask. In the second OT, recently acquired center Michal Handzusz put a near-perfect pass on Kane's stick in front of the net, which he just missed connecting on. Having scored against the Kings in overtime to send the Blackhawks to the finals, not to mention the OT series winner he had in the 2010 Stanley Cup, this will not be the last you've heard from No. 88.

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