The Boston Bruins didn't need overtime to beat the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 3, thanks to Tuukka Rask. The Bruins goaltender turned away all 28 shots the Blackhawks threw at him for his third shutout of the playoffs to lead his team past the Blackhawks 2-0 and to a 2-1 lead in the series.
Rask's job was made easier by the fact that Marian Hossa was scratched for the game. The Blackhawks' forward skated in warmups, despite coach Joel Quenneville admitting after the game that it was unlikely Hossa would play, and Ben Smith wasn't on the ice for warmups in an attempt to surprise the Bruins, but when the game started it was Smith who was on the ice as Hossa watched in street clothes.
Hossa is expected to return for Game 4, which the Blackhawks will need if they are going to beat the red hot Rask. They have been woeful on the man advantage, all while Jaromir Jagr has found his legs to give the Bruins' power play an extra weapon and turned the special teams battle Boston's way.
The Blackhawks are fighting an uphill battle already being down in a series, but being on the road makes things even tougher on Chicago. They are just 3-5 on the road in the playoffs, while Boston has been excellent at the TD Garden, winning seven straight at home and allowing just 1.6 goals per game in that stretch.
Now the Bruins get another game in front of their home crowd, but this time they can move to within one game of the Stanley Cup. Whether Hossa plays or not, the Bruins have momentum, Rask and a shiny silver cup waiting for them at the end of the road, unless the Blackhawks can do something about that.
Will the Blackhawks reunite Toews and Kane?
Quenneville split up Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane before the Stanley Cup Final, presumably trying to stretch his lines out to match the depth of the Bruins, but it hasn't paid off yet. The Blackhawks' two superstars have combined for just one assist and no goals in three games after each scored 23 goals in the regular season and combined for 103 points. With both players struggling to get on the scoresheet, and neither of their lines doing much to test Tuukka Rask, Quenneville may have to put Toews and Kane back on the same line in Game 4.
Can the Bruins continue to dominate in the face-off circle?
The Bruins were the NHL's best face-off team in the regular season and have been great in the playoffs, but they turned it up to another level in Game 3, winning 40 of 56 draws. Patrice Bergeron led the way, winning 24-of-48 face-offs as Boston completely dominated the draws, allowing them to put pressure on the Blackhawks in Chicago's zone and relieve pressure in their own. If the Bruins can do it again, they'll have the Blackhawks on the back foot for most of Game 4.
Will Chicago's power play break through?
The Blackhawks' power play struggles continued in Game 3, when they went 0-for-5 with the man-advantage to slump to 0-for-11 in the series. That's due in large part to the Bruins' excellent penalty kill, which has killed 27 straight penalties now, but Chicago hasn't scored a goal on the power play since Game 2 of the Western Conference Final, a dry spell that has reached 122 minutes and 26 seconds. For a team that was second in the NHL in power play goals during the regular season, that won't cut it.