Still just trying to catch your breath?
On the one hand, the Boston Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks gave us a thriller for the ages in Game 4 of Stanley Cup finals, a series that has already shaped to be one of the most memorable in recent NHL history. Chicago’s 6-5 win in overtime Wednesday night was the antithesis of what we’ve witnessed thus far in this showdown. Up until the puck dropped, the Bruins and Blackhawks had scored a combined 12 goals through the first 13 periods. On Wednesday, it was 11 over three-plus, and I half-wondered if someone had switched off the offside option on the dusty Sega. Combine that with the fact that Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask had not allowed Chicago to score in the last 122 minutes, 26 seconds coming into the game, and … well, you try predicting how things play out from here on out.
On the other, the Bruins delivered what was their worst effort of the postseason. Dennis Seidenberg, heir to the Army Ranger jacket following Monday night’s effort in Game 3, was a -3 on the evening, same as his counterpart Zdeno Chara, as defensive breakdowns forced Rask to pull too many rabbits out of his hat. Tyler Seguin’s giveaway on Boston’s first-period power play was inexcusable. Milan Lucic, who scored in the second period, also contributed a costly, stupid turnover that helped lead to a Chicago power play and its fifth goal in the third. And stop me if you’ve heard this before: Too many men …
Yet despite all that, despite all the uncharacteristic, sloppy play on the part of the Bruins, it took the Blackhawks another overtime to even this series at two. Chicago came out of the gate flying, and the hope from a Bruins perspective was that the Blackhawks would be forced to slow down in order for Boston to control the pace of the game. That never happened. There was no real pace except a frenetic one, and the two teams continued to trade punches, none of which had either squad in the relative clear until Brent Seabrook’s overtime goal at 9:51.
Heartbreaker for the Bruins, but had Boston netted the overtime goal, it would have been a backbreaker for the Blackhawks, who would have been forced to rally and win three straight to win the Cup. This is, after all, the style of game they want to play, one they have only been able to dictate against the Bruins in spurts so far this series. As discouraging as Game 2, and as confounding as Game 3 was on the Blackhawks’ bench, if they were to lose Game 4 the way they started it, where would the inspiration have come to win in Game 5 at home?
That’s heresy though. No matter what transpires in Saturday’s Game 5, the simple fact is that the Stanley Cup will be in the building Monday night when the Bruins and Blackhawks play Game 6 at the TD Garden. One team will have the chance to parade it around the Boston ice, while the other will try and force Game 7 at the United Center on Wednesday.
Chicago certainly appeared to figure something out about the Bruins Wednesday night. But the Blackhawks can’t be encouraged by the fact that Boston, in turn, stepped up its own offensive game to force three periods of push. Let’s not mistake that for solid effort, for the Bruins were abysmal in their own zone, were out of rhythm on their power plays, and gave Rask minimal chances to lock himself down in the crease. But if you’re Chicago head coach Joel Quenneville, you can only hope that Corey Crawford figures out what ailed him glove side.
And that the Bruins forget about it.
The Bruins put forth their worst effort since the regular season, and it still took overtime for the Blackhawks to pull out a victory. Maybe that’s trying too hard to instill some sunshine in a gray cloud, and maybe it was indeed the Blackhawks who figured out how to handle the Bruins Wednesday night in the wake of many assuming the Bruins had them on the ropes, wide-eyed and left shaking their heads like the snake-bitten Penguins before them.
The Bruins and Blackhawks are headed back to Chicago for Game 5. The Cup is headed here for Monday night. Boston would most definitely like to save it some cargo airfare on a trip back to the Midwest.