The Blackhawks didn’t score in six periods of play over the course of Games 2 & 3 so Wednesday night’s offensive eruption was a welcomed sight. Yet, the Blackhawks still
found themselves on the brink of going down 3-1 in the Stanley Cup Finals. The Boston Bruins and Chicago were deadlocked in a heated 5-5 tie going into the fifth overtime period of the series. Head Coach Joe Quenneville’s team shouldn’t have been in this predicament anyways, but shaking goaltending and defensive turnovers in their own end nearly cost the Blackhawks Game 4, and quite possibly the series. All-Star forwards Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews both tallied their first goals of the 2013 Stanley Cup Finals, Chicago broke a scoreless drought with the man advantage, Tuukka Rask had his worst game of the series, Hossa returned, and Chicago almost lost. Not necessarily a good sign for Blackhawks fans.
Although Chicago managed to pull off another thrilling overtime victory, thanks to the late game heroics of Brent Seabrook, again. Seabrook netted his second overtime goal of the playoffs at the 10:09 mark. The Blackhawks got the split they desperately needed. Wednesday night’s exciting 6-5 contest even up the series 2-2 going back to Chicago. Yes you read that right, there were 11 COMBINED GOALS IN GAME 4! There were only 12 combined goals through the first three games of the series. What triggered this offensive explosion?
The scoring got started when Blackhawks were a man down in the first period. Forward Brandon Saad skated free after picking up a loose puck in his own zone with Michal Hanzus trailing the play. Saad dished the puck to Hanzus as he entered the Bruins end of the ice and the Slovakian forward put the puck past Rask. Chicago stole the early momentum on a shocking short-handed goal.
Although, Claude Julien’s squad seemed to have an answer for every Blackhawks goal. Rich Peverley and his teammates made the most of their second power-play opportunity of the period by beating Corey Crawford to tie up the game 1-1. That’s when things started to unwind for Crawford. Chicago’s goaltender looked off all night allowing long rebounds and getting beat on his glove side. Both teams went to intermission with a 1-1 tie. The first period was played evenly for the most part, Quenneville’s squad got off to a quick start while Boston closed out the opening period with a flury of offensive chances.
Both teams played at a faster pace during the second period. There seemed to be more open ice and scoring chances for both sides, a scenario that definitely benefits Chicago’s offense. They tallied their second goal of the game when Jonathan Toews redirected a slapshot under the pads of Rask into the back of the net. It’s Toews’ first goal since game 5 of the Detroit series. Toews scoring was a welcomed sight for Blackhawks fans and it appeared to uplift the entire team. The offense started to click on all cylinders by generating chance after chance, the Bruins defense was on edge. It didn’t take long for the President Trophy winners to produce another goal. Patrick Kane cleaned up a rebound off a Bryan Bickell blast after he settled a fluttering puck before backhanding it into the top shelf of Boston’s net. It was his first goal of the series. Chicago gained a breath of new life taking a 3-1 lead in the TD Garden being down 2-1 in the best of seven series. However, Boston would have an answer – a reoccurring theme in this contest.
The last five and a half minutes of the second period might have been the craziest sequence of events in the series. Boston’s Milan Lucic had an answer for Toews and Kane’s back-to-back goals. Patrick Sharp failed to clear a puck in Chicago’s zone and Zdeno Chara gained possession of the loose puck. Chara blasted his 100 + mph slap shot at Crawford. The Montreal native made the initial save but couldn’t stop Lucic’s rebound opportunity, making the score to 3-2. The Blackhawks provided a response to the Bruins answer moments later. Forward Dave Bolland made a tremendous pass off the boards ahead Michael Frolik and Marcus Kruger, which created a 2 on 1 opportunity for the Blackhawks. Frolik glided a cross ice pass Kruger, who snapped a wristshot at Rask. Rask was able to stop the initial shot but Kruger corralled the rebound, making the most of another scoring chance. Kruger beat Rask to make the score 4-2, but the pesky Bruins wouldn’t go away.
Chicago looked like they were going to skate into intermission with a two goal lead. Unfortunately, defenseman Duncan Keith committed a tripping violation with a 1:02 left in the period. Boston made the most of the assistant captain’s mistake when Patrice Bergeron tallied his third power-play goal of the series. Julien’s team stole the momentum in a blink of an eye heading into the third period. Boston continued to respond to every Blackhawks goal when Bergeron scored again at the 17:55 mark in the final 20 minutes of regulation. Quenneville’s squad blew a two goal lead in a matter of 3 minutes and 7 seconds.
The remainder of the third period was a back and forth battle between both sides. Each team produced a slew of opportune scoring chances but failed to convert until Patrick Sharp scored an uplifting power-play goal for the Blackhawks. Chicago’s struggles with the man advantage have been well documented throughout this series. They scored once in their previous 33 power-play chances before Sharp capitalized on a loose puck in front of the net with 8:21 left in regulation. It didn’t take long for the 2010 Stanley Cup champions to relinquish another lead. Defenseman Johnny Boychuk matched Sharp’s goal less than a minute later when his slapshot beat Crawford’s glove side – again, Crawford getting beat on his glove side.
Chicago couldn’t seem to hold onto a lead and it began to look as if they were about to waste an incredible offensive effort. Crawford and his defense were shaky throughout the game. Both teams created a couple more scoring chances in the remainder of the third period, but nobody could muster that final breakthrough in regulation. Overtime needed to settle this one and we all know what happened from here. Seabrook scored to keep Chicago’s Stanley Cup dreams alive. As incredible as this game was, adjustments have to be made before Game 5.
First off, the Blackhawks deserved to win Game 4. They generated 47 shots on goal, netting six goals in the process. Chicago finally opened up the ice, picked up the tempo, got Kane and Toews going, and scored on the power-play; three great signs for Quenneville and his coaching staff. With that being said, some issues did arise in last night’s contest. Crawford and his defense performed poorly in Game 4. Crawford was consistently beaten on his glove side after making a few spectacular glove saves in the first three games of this series. It wasn’t his strongest postseason performance, but a win is a win. Part of the blame should be put on Chicago’s defense and penalty kill. The Blackhawks struggled clearing pucks out of their own end and it ultimately cost them a couple goals. Turnovers in their own end is inexcusable, especially for one of the top penalty killing units in the league.
It’s a new series now. Whoever wins two of three will take home the Stanley Cup. Chicago has home ice for the rest of the series and momentum going into Game 5. The Blackhawks need to sustain the offensive production from Game 4 while tightening up their defense and goaltending. Game 5 should be another exciting contest. Enjoy.