After the back-and-forth nonsense in Game 4, the Blackhawks and Bruins settled back into familiar roles on Saturday. Boston went back to its heavy forecheck, hoping to wear Chicago down. Spoiler alert: didn't happen. The Blackhawks' offense sliced and diced its way to a huge 3-1 win in Game 5 and now are a win away from another Stanley Cup.
Chicago cut through the usually rock-solid Boston defense early. Tuukka Rask was forced to make two great stops early on, and this one on Patrick Sharp was especially handsome.
Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews have been especially brilliant since reuniting on the Hawks' top line in Game 4. Boston simply had no answer for them. The Bruins' real problem all game long was their tightness (or lack thereof) on defense. Given tons of space to work with, the Blackhawks were able to swarm the net constantly. Kane cleaned up again in the second. If you read our preview of Game 5, we spoke about how Kane / Toews were starting something and it definitely worked in their favor in Game 5.
Swarming the net didn't come without a price. The Bruins finished their checks hard at the end of every scoring chance, and Toews got a taste of it when Johnny Boychuk filled him in. But was it a legal hit? The argument could be made that he targeted the head, and Toews' did miss the entire third period with an undisclosed injury. We just learned from NHL that Boychuk will not be suspended for his hit on Toews. Good news for the Bruins, who could really use it.
Meanwhile, Andrew Shaw continued to pay for being a pest. Also, Zdeno Chara had a rather poor game defensively, but he made things interesting with a goal in the third period.
It wasn't enough. Patrice Bergeron missed the entire second half of the game, and the Bruins couldn't get anything going in the offensive end. Chicago potted an empty-netter late to seal the 3-1 win.
Chicago is now one win away from the Stanley Cup, and the Hawks' opponent is facing a myriad of problems. Chara is not playing like a Norris Trophy winner. Bergeron was in the hospital. Boychuk could be suspended.
Boston tried to win Game 5 with force, but lost it to skill. Scissors beat rock. And pipe beat hockey stick.
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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.
Insiders say it really depends on the performance of the Blackhawk's Captain Jonathan Toews. The Winnipeg native has been relatively absent in the Post Season.
With his team trying to avoid falling into a 3-1 hole in the Stanley Cup Final, Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville seems prepared to reunite Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane on the same line for Game 4 on Wednesday night.
The two have rarely played together at even-strength over the first three games of the series against Boston but were back on a line with Bryan Bickell during Chicago's pre-game skate at TD Garden on Wednesday.
Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville didn't want to talk about the injury that forced him to scratch forward Marian Hossa from the Stanley Cup finals against the Boston Bruins.
And why not?
``I think that's self-explanatory,' Quenneville said, once again declining to explain the secrecy that is as much a part of the NHL culture as playoff beards and Zambonis.
Hossa's surprise scratch from Game 3 and the one-word explanation - ``upper' - for the part of his body that was injured is part of a long-running cat-and-mouse game NHL teams play. The theory goes that any revealing information about injuries could become a competitive disadvantage.
Hossa is expected to play in Game 4, Quenneville said Tuesday, but only after making it clear that ``I'm not going to get (into) exactly what the injury is or where it occurred.'
``It's sort of a secret society in the hockey world and in the injury world,' Blackhawks forward Dave Bolland said. ``You don't want other teams having any injury information at all.'
Asked if he had seen Hossa or had a chance to talk to him, Bolland said, ``I don't know.'
You don't know if you've seen him or talked to him?
``I don't know if I've seen him,' Bolland repeated with a sly smile.
Tuukka Rask stopped 28 shots from the depleted Blackhawks to help the Bruins win 2-0 on Monday night and move two wins from their second Stanley Cup title in three seasons.
Game 4 is Wednesday night in Boston before the series returns to Chicago for a fifth game.
Hossa's mysterious injury may have been a turning point in Game 3, but it's hardly unusual in the secretive world of hockey injuries. Players and coaches say they just don't talk about what's hurting, partly because they don't want to seem weak in a sport where they hit each other for a living.
But mostly they don't want let the other team know where to aim.
``If I'm going out to battle and I have an injury to any part of my body, I don't want the other side to know what it is,' Bruins forward Shawn Thornton said.
Injury information can also help the opponent strategize. Quenneville was so concerned about giving the Bruins advance notice of even a few minutes that he didn't let substitute Ben Smith skate in the warmup even though there was a chance he would need to play.
``I just didn't want to tip our hand that there's something going on,' the coach said.
``Ben was ready. I knew he was doing everything,' Quenneville said. ``We were hopeful that Hoss was playing, and Ben was doing everything to get ready. He was ready.'
No hard feelings, Bruins coach Claude Julien said. After all, he would do - and has done - the same thing.
``I respect that from other teams. When you're playing against each other, you know exactly where everybody is coming from,' Julien said.
``There's times where you have to protect your players, and I understand it. I know it's frustrating for you guys as media. You're trying to share that information. The most important thing for us, we can take the heat for that, is protecting your players.'
So, how to tell if an injury is minor? When a team actually admits it exists.
``I'll share one with you: Yesterday in a warmup, Zdeno Chara fell down, got a cut over the eye,' Julien said, to laughter, of the injury to his captain that had already been confirmed and reported. ``I'll let you know about that. That's not a hidden injury.'
The Bruins also confirmed without delay the broken leg that knocked Gregory Campbell out of the Eastern Conference finals against Pittsburgh. But that was only because Campbell was out for the season after taking a shot to his leg on national TV and struggling to get off the ice.
``If it's something that doesn't put your player in danger, I don't see why you shouldn't talk about it,' Julien said.
Players say they don't have to be told not to discuss injuries; they grow up with the culture in junior and minor leagues. Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp said he doesn't remember when he first learned the subject was off-limits, but it was long before he reached the NHL.
And hockey players are not alone.
``It's not just here,' Thornton said. ``I don't think Bill Belichick is (listing) all the injuries they have, either.'
But even the notoriously uncommunicative New England Patriots coach is required by NFL rules to say what body part is injured. NHL coaches have to narrow it only to ``upper body' or ``lower body,' which means a player with a concussion and one with a broken finger would have the same diagnosis.
During the playoffs, information is even more scarce.
``It's that time of year where everybody's kind of battling. I would say that not just injuries, strategy, all that kind of information we're not going to talk about,' Sharp said. ``It's all part of being this close to the ultimate goal.'
And does he have any injuries he cares to mention?