It was a must-win game for the Blackhawks, and they stepped up to the challenge and won Game 4 by a final of 6-5 in overtime against the Bruins. For me at least, that was about as uncomfortable as I have felt while watching the Blackhawks play this year. It felt like no lead was safe, and in fact that’s just how it was. Every time the Blackhawks scored, the Bruins had an answer. Twice the Hawks had 2-goal leads of 3-1 and 4-2, but they couldn’t hang on to either of them. I feel like if they would have played 5 more minutes of overtime after Seabrook scored, the Bruins would have tied the game. That’s just the way things were going.
Many people were saying that the Blackhawks wouldn’t win this series unless Jonathan Toews found the back of the net. Well, he scored his second goal of the postseason in Game 4 and played one of his best games yet during these playoffs. Patrick Kane, who had been held scoreless since Game 5 against L.A., also scored in Game 4. I don’t think it is any coincidence that Kane and Toews both scored after being reunited on the top line. Those two simply have a chemistry between them that is at times unparalleled by any other duo in the league.
As for the lines last night as a whole, I think it’s safe to say that Quenneville will be sticking with them from here on out. The Blackhawks scored 6 goals last night, which is impressive, but they did it against arguably the league’s best defensive team, which is even more impressive. At the same time, however, the Bruins did score 5 goals against the Blackhawks, who are not a bad defensive team in any way, shape, or form.
Corey Crawford is being blasted today by many people from sports radio show hosts, to TV analysts, to NHL writers. Some people, and they are ignorant people, are even suggesting that Joel Quenneville should bench Crawford for Game 5 in place of Ray Emery. I love how so many people are over-reactionary. Corey Crawford had a bad game. He’s not perfect. In fact, he’s probably the main reason as to why the Blackhawks are this far into the playoffs. Name one other game this postseason in which you can confidently say Crawford played bad. Name one Blackhawks’ loss this postseason that you can blame on Crawford. My guess is you can’t. The guy had a bad game. That stuff happens. And you know what? The Blackhawks still won Game 4. It’s not like he gave up 5 goals and the Hawks lost 5-1. If you are going to blast Crawford, then you should blast Tuukka Rask as well.
All anyone has been talking about since Game 2 of this series ended is how Tuukka Rask is the hands down Conn Smythe winner if the Bruins win this series. Sure, he’s played good, but he hasn’t done anything that we’ve never seen before. Part of the reason why his numbers were good through the first 3 games of this series is because the Blackhawks were terrible offensively in games 2 and 3. Rask gave up 6 goals in Game 4 and the Bruins lost the game (on home ice). Why isn’t that getting more attention than it is?
Moving forward, the Blackhawks do need to be a lot better defensively. There were too many instances in Game 4 where they didn’t clear the puck when they should have, when they didn’t have anyone boxing out in front of Crawford, and when they allowed Boston’s point-men to have open looks at the net (for example, Johnny Boychuk’s goal). Crawford did give up a few bad goals, there’s no denying that, but the Hawks’ defense also hung him out to dry on a couple of those.
One thing that has me a little worried right now is the Blackhawks’ penalty kill. This was possibly their biggest strength during the regular season and first 3 rounds of the playoffs, but now it looks like a weakness. The Bruins already have 4 power play goals through the first 4 games of this series, and the Blackhawks don’t seem to have an answer. While I’d like to think that the PK will turn itself around and that the Bruins’ season-long bad PP will return, part of me thinks that the Bruins found a weakness in the Hawks’ penalty kill and that they’re exploiting it. One solution for the Blackhawks is to stop taking penalties.
Aside from the penalty kill, I am pretty confident looking ahead to Game 5 back in Chicago. This is now a best of 3 series with 2 games being at the United Center where the Hawks have played well all year. In Game 4, the Blackhawks were the clear-cut better team. The only reason that game was close was because A) Crawford had an off night, and B) the Bruins had some lucky bounces. You could also say that the Blackhawks played their worst defensive game of the postseason, and I’d bet they won’t do that again. The Blackhawks controlled much of the puck possession and dominated in shots-on-goal. They played their game instead of letting Boston play their own game. They used their speed to a major advantage, and they’ll need to keep doing so. In Game 5, I hope to see the Blackhawks come out again and play like it’s another Game 7. They need to give everything they’ve got until there is no more hockey left to play.
Like I said before, I am pretty confident right now about the Blackhawks’ chances in this series. They’ve got 2 of the remaining 3 games on their home ice, and they have proven that they can beat Boston. They got their worst defensive effort out of the way, and yet they still won that game. If the Hawks really want to win the Cup, then they need to continue playing like it. When they do that, they are almost unbeatable.