The Boston Bruins won the battles in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final at TD Garden. Their reward was a 2-0 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks and a 2-1 lead in the series.
Faceoffs are a kind of battle, and the Bruins won 40 out of 56 of those tonight. That’s a success rate of 71.4 percent, and it came against players like Jonathan Toews and Michal Handzus, two of the best faceoff men in the game.
Boston’s star two-way center, Patrice Bergeron, went 24-4 in the circle — that’s 85.7 percent — and scored a power-play goal for good measure.
Toews, this year’s Selke Trophy winner and the 2010 playoff MVP, went a mediocre 8-11 and hasn’t scored in his last 10 games.
Handzus went an embarrassing 0-for-10, with eight of those losses to Bergeron.
Of course, the most important battle of the night was won by Game 2 hero Daniel Paille. Early in the second period, he out-worked Chicago center Dave Bolland in front of the Blackhawks’ goal and snapped the puck past Corey Crawford for the opening score of the contest. And that play was preceded by Bruins forward Chris Kelly winning a battle with Nick Leddy.
The NHL doesn’t track battles, other than faceoffs. But it’s those feats of determination that so often decide games.
“We got to make sure that every play is critical,” said Chicago coach Joel Quenneville, “every shift is important, value being out there and doing the right thing.”
Meanwhile, Bruins coach Claude Julien thinks his team is “playing the best hockey of the season right now.”
“I think it’s the energy in the game, the effort,” said Julien. “You see our guys, like I said, they’re back-checking, having layers, so when somebody makes a mistake, you have somebody covering up.
“We’re blocking a lot of shots. The commitment is totally there.
“Throughout a whole season, it’s not easy to have that full commitment. But I think when you get to this stage, players start feeling it. They go above and beyond.
“That’s what you’re seeing from our team right now.”