BOSTON - Patrick Sharp didn’t know how long it had been until he was told.
Even then, when he heard the number, he was somewhat dubious that it was indeed factual.
But the daunting fact is there for the offensively gifted Chicago Blackhawks, whether they are willing to admit it or not.
They didn’t score last night against the Boston Bruins in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup final.
They didn’t score in the second, third or overtime periods of Game 2.
They have now gone one hundred and 22 minutes, 26 seconds – more than two full games – without finding a way to beat goaltender Tuukka Rask.
And oddly, they don’t seem particularly concerned about it, even though they now trail in the series 2-1 after a 2-0 win by the Bruins on Monday night.
“I don’t think it’s an issue,” said Sharp, who scored the last Chicago goal in the first period of Game 2. “There’s enough going on in the big picture to not worry about that. I don’t think anyone is squeezing his stick. We're not frustrated. It’s not like we’re worried about number or statistics.
“It’s hockey. It’s hard to score. It’s never easy, especially in the Stanley Cup final ... (Rask) is not in our heads. Tip your cap to him. He’s making great saves. He’s swallowing up pucks. We’ve got to shoot for rebounds, shoot for goals.
And therein may be the problem for the Blackhawks. Their game is all about scoring. It’s one thing not to score. It’s another thing to get nothing resembling a second chance around the net.
Rask was that sharp, that clean in registering the shutout Monday night. He controlled virtually every shot and if he keeps this up yiou can gift wrap the Conn Smythe Trophy for him.
The Boston defence was its regular blocking bunch. There weren’t the kind of rebounds the Blackhawks keep talking about trying to get.
The goal Sharp scored came in a first period that Chicago dominated. He scored not on the first shot of the play, but the fourth. It was bang, bang, bang, goalie down and a goal for the Hawks. But there was no fourth shots in Game 3. There was no second shots for the Hawks. They were kept to the outside by the Bruins, managed defensively, dominated on faceoffs and occasionally confused.
The separation between these strangers suddenly seems apparent.
“You’ve heard this a thousand times,” said Sharp. “The goalie is playing well. We need to get in front of him, get pucks to the net. Find a way to do that.”
The Chicago goal that sent the game to overtime in Game 1 came from a wide shot that bounced off Bruins defenceman Andrew Ference’s skate. That was a fluke.
The goal that won them Game 1 in triple overtime came off a double-deflection and not a shot at all. Another fluke.
For a team that solved Jonathan Quick in the last round, but moreso solved the Los Angeles Kings with wide passes off odd man rushes, scoring picturesque goals, there have been few masterpieces painted in this series. And nothing really since the first period of Game 2.
Hawks captain Jonathan Toews has yet to register a point in the final and has yet to score in nine career Stanley Cup final games. He has just three points in those games. That has to mean something.
Marian Hossa, one of Chicago’s most creative and important players, didn’t play Monday night. He can’t possibly be replaced by anyone lower on the Chicago depth chart.
Patrick Kane needs to do more. Toews needs to do more. The best Hawks haven’t been all that impressive, aside from goalie Corey Crawford, who had no chance on Boston’s second goal Monday.
“Bounces aren’t going our way,” said Toews. But it’s much more than that.
It’s difficult at this stage to know if the Hawks are ready to disappear from the final or if they’re actually believing their own dressing room words, that they’re close to the Bruins.
They see it. I don’t.
“We did a lot of good things,” said Toews. “I don’t think we’re discouraged or frustrated at all. I don’t feel that.”
Toews said the Blackhawks are making it easy for Rask by shooting in his glove. “That’s one thing we can correct,” he said.
There is much to correct, but the Bruins are that tight and their goalie is that terrific that the window is closing for the Blackhawks already. And it’s closing fast for a team that may not be slumping.
It might just be the Bruins, led by Rask, are that much better.