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Following up the wildest Stanley Cup Final game in quite a while is a hell of a task, but the coaches of the Chicago Blackhawks and Boston Bruins are probably okay with not trying to top it in Game 5.After two days off, the Bruins and Blackhawks reconvene in Chicago for what is now a best-of-three for the right to hoist the Stanley Cup. The two teams are coming off a Game 4 in which 11 goals were scored, 80 shots were put on goal and nearly 70 minutes were played. These two teams probably could have used the rest, and the hope is that you'll see a couple of recharged teams, at least defensively and in net.
A lot of people are suggesting that Corey Crawford needs to be better, and that he got exposed during Game 4, in
which he was particularly weak on his glove side. That is true, but let's not forget: Tuukka Rask also played in that game, and gave up six goals of his own. Sure, he faced 14 more shots (47 to 33) than Crawford did, and some are bound to be out of his control, but regardless, the best goaltender in the postseason gave up six in a Stanley Cup Final game. That is borderline shocking.
The winner of this series is going to be the team that doesn't bother trying to get into a track meet like we did on
Wednesday. Five goals were scored in the second period, and everyone just kept playing catch-up.That's not how you win a playoff series, especially not the Stanley Cup Final. The Bruins and Blackhawks need to return to a disciplined
defensive game. The loser of the series will likely have not completely done that.
Winning Game 5 is not exactly a guarantee of ultimate victory. It gives you a better chance of winning the Stanley Cup, for sure, but the numbers aren't as overwhelming as you'd think. The winner of Game 5 in a 2-2 series wins the Stanley Cup 68 percent of the time. While that is a two to one shot, you'd think it'd be even higher, wouldn't you? A 32 percent chance of taking two in a row isn't exactly the worst odds you could give one of these two clubs.
Which goaltender rebounds?
Like I said, both goaltenders need to rebound, but perhaps there was a little too much negative attention paid Corey Crawford's performance. Tuukka Rask will almost definitely never play a worse game on a big stage like that, and most likely neither will Crawford. But Crawford can't afford another bad game, because a legitimate
replacement in Ray Emery sits on the bench. At what point does he become an option? The two goalies in this series have fully emerged in the spotlight as far as the narrative goes, and will they now likely be the ones who decide the series.
Are Toews and Kane starting something?
Lost in the 11-goal shuffle on Wednesday night was that Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane both managed to score
goals. For Kane, it was his first of the series and first since his hat trick in Game 5 of the Western Conference Final. For Toews, it was just his second goal in 21 games of postseason action. Toews has been excellent defensively, so his play gets a bit of a reprieve. Both players, however, must be hoping that this is a sign of things to come.
Can the Bruins defense return to stifling hockey?
Let's face it: if the Blackhawks have solved the Bruins defensive scheme, this series is over. Wednesday night proved,
once and for all, that the Hawks are the better team to run and gun, and the Bruins just can't keep up. The Bruins have their defensive system for a reason: for most of the postseason it worked, stopping some of the best offensive players on the planet. On Wednesday night, the Bruins gave up as many goals as they did in their four second round wins over the New York Rangers, total. That can't happen again if Boston wants a second Stanley Cup in three years.
Will the debut of Forward Carl Soderberg help the Bruins?
Forward Carl Soderberg appears poised to make his playoff debut for the Boston Bruins. The Boston Globe reports Soderberg subbed in for Kaspars Daugavins on the Bruins' fourth line (alongside Rich Peverley and Shawn Thornton) for the majority of Friday’s practice.
BLACKHAWKS BOUNCE BACK
The Blackhawks had plenty to celebrate after splitting two games in Boston. Chicago will host Game 5 on Saturday with the series tied at 2 instead of being in a 3-1 hole. The Blackhawks also atoned for their listless performance in a 2-0 loss in Game 3 on Monday. Chicago had six shots on goalie Tuukka Rask before the Bruins had any. The Blackhawks also came out hitting and never let up, showing grit that was lacking in the previous game. While the Bruins rallied to
tie it three different times, the Blackhawks never trailed. "They keep coming. They're a hard-working team. They have skill on all their lines," Chicago coach Joel Quennville said. "They have a mobile and active D. They have big shots. Defensively you're always going to get challenged and tested. But I thought we did a better job of our offense putting some pressure on their D."
Maybe the 48-game lockout-shortened schedule was a good thing, because the
postseason is getting stretched to the max. Last night's game was the 27th
overtime game of this year's playoffs, one short of the record set in 1993. That
was also the last time three games in the finals went beyond regulation, with
Montreal taking all three while beating Wayne Gretzky and the Los Angeles Kings.
"It's exciting. Everybody worked so hard tonight. Everybody's worked so hard
through the playoffs," said Brent Seabrook, who scored on a slap shot 9:51 into
OT. "We're all contributing. It doesn't matter if I score or anybody else
scores, it's nice to get the win and move on to the next day." The Blackhawks
are 5-2 in OT during the playoffs and the Bruins are 5-3, losing for the first
time in an OT game in Boston in these playoffs.
Boston goalie Tuukka Rask's remarkable postseason run stalled, and his shutout
streak of more than 129 minutes was long forgotten by the time it was over. Rask
had allowed seven goals over the previous seven games before the Blackhawks
cracked him in the largest offensive outburst of the series. Chicago had just
five goals in the series entering Game 4, and the teams had combined for just 12
before striking for 11 yesterday. The final one came on Seabrook's slap shot as
captain Jonathan Toews provided a bulky screen in front of Rask as the puck got
past him and tucked inside the far post. "We were just around the net. We were
getting inside and found the rebounds," said Toews, who had gone 10 games
without a goal before he scored early in the second to put Chicago up 2-1. "Ugly
goals, we don't care. We'll find a way. It's something we need to keep doing."
Boston coach Claude Julien did not blame Rask for the loss in his postgame
comments, but didn't exactly rush to his goalie's defense, either. "I don't
evaluate the players publicly here," Julien said. "I look at our whole team and
tell you our whole team was average. You can take what you want from that. I
think we can be a lot better. We have an opportunity to be better next game.
Hopefully, if anything, that makes us even hungrier."
The Bruins made it a long night for Chicago goalie Corey Crawford as well,
finding a vulnerable spot on his glove side and targeting it all game. All five
of Boston's goals were to Crawford's glove side, and the Bruins tested him there
one final time in OT on a snap shot by Rich Peverley. Crawford juggled the puck
slightly, but held on to it and forced a faceoff. Seabrook scored 19 seconds
later and Crawford had another win in the finals despite allowing five goals.
"Corey has been great for us all year, all playoffs. He just moves forward,"
coach Joel Quenneville said. "Commend him. We got the win. You know, he'll be
The Bruins scored a pair of power-play goals, the Blackhawks scored once while a
man up and another down a man as special teams finally were a factor. The
Blackhawks were scoreless in 11 power plays through the first three games and
mired in a 0-for-29 drought before Patrick Sharp scored to put Chicago up 5-4
with 9:41 left in regulation. The goal came just after a 5-on-3 advantage for
Chicago expired, but before Boston's Jaromir Jagr could get from the penalty box
into the play. The Bruins had killed 27 straight penalties entering the game.