BOSTON (CBS) — In any playoff series, there are always strong emotional swings along the way. But the Bruins and Blackhawks are really taking that to the extreme.
Think about it — after the Blackhawks won in triple overtime of Game 1, there was absolutely no way on earth that the Bruins could recover. The Stanley Cup had been won by Chicago … until the Bruins won Game 2. That game itself had quite the swing, with the Blackhawks dominating play in the first period, leading to many fans and media members to question whether the Bruins even belonged in the same league as the Blackhawks. They did, because they won.
After that win, the Blackhawks had lost their home-ice advantage, no doubt a devastating blow to their title hopes, but nothing compared to the death blow of Game 3. After the Bruins won 2-0 in the third game of the series, “really, the Bruins should be up 3-0 in the series and we could be looking at a sweep, if not for a bad bounce off Andrew Ference’s skate” became a common refrain. Regardless, the Bruins had seized complete control of the series … until Game 4.
Though it may have seemed like the two teams were going back and forth all night, it was really just the Bruins playing catch-up. The Bruins never led, Tuukka Rask looked human, and mistakes allowed the Blackhawks to keep piling up goals. How a team loses its mental focus and sharpness when it has a chance to claim a 3-1 series lead in the Stanley Cup Final is anyone’s guess, but perhaps the Bruins themselves got caught riding that emotional high after dominating Game 3.
Fortunately, for now it seems as though the hyperbolic reactions have leveled off a bit. Just about everyone expected an even series, and that’s what we have. Through four games, the Bruins have scored just one more goal than Chicago, with three of the four games being decided after regulation and one game necessitating 112 minutes to determine a winner. Realistically, this series could go either way, and playing the prediction game is a futile endeavor. We’re all better off just trying to enjoy it for what it is — a classic championship series.
But with some time to kill before Game 5, let’s run through the leftover thoughts from Game 4’s 6-5 overtime loss for the Bruins.
–Claude Julien, your thoughts on the game?
–Predictions are stupid. I’ve said it before, but no game better makes that case than this one. That is, unless you were the writer who foresaw an 11-goal game to play out in Boston. If you did indeed, contact me to claim your prize.
–Tuukka Rask summed up the game rather perfectly: “It was kind of going back and forth like a practice.” A scrimmage probably shouldn’t break out in the middle of the Stanley Cup Final.
—If Corey Crawford is on your softball team, you may not want to put him at first base. I’m just saying.
–The Bruins’ mistakes were too many to bother listing, because really, they’re not going to play like that again. I covered some of the costly ones in my postgame story, but it was the worst the Bruins have looked since the end of the regular season. Whether it was mental fatigue, physical wear or the Bruins getting ahead of themselves, I think Game 4 will be more of a wake-up call than it will a harbinger of things to come.
–The positive, at least, was pretty easy to find in the Bruins. They’re a team that has somehow forgotten what it feels like to be down and out in a game. When Patrice Bergeron scored to tie the game at 4-4, it wasn’t surprising to see. When Johnny Boychuk scored to tie the game at 5-5, it wasn’t surprising either. The Bruins may make mistakes and occasionally let in a flood of goals, but they know how to battle back as necessary.
–If you ever played Blades Of Steel on Nintendo back in the day, then you fondly remember the “shootout” that the game had to settle ties. A shooter would stand at the blue line and fire a slap shot at one corner of the net, and the player controlling the goalie would have to guess which corner to block. Well, if you cue up Boychuk’s goal to the 53-second mark of this YouTube video, it is straight out of that Blades Of Steel shootout.
–Boychuk also taught Patrick Sharp a lesson in celebrating a goal. Sharp looked like he wanted Theo Fleury across the whole rink after putting the Blackhawks up 5-4 in the third period by cleaning up the garbage in front just after a 5-on-3 became a 5-on-4. A great goal it was not, but Sharp nearly popped his shoulder out with his celebration. Boychuk, by contrast, looked relaxed enough to fire up a cigarette, stir a glass of whiskey and start talking about the good old days as he slid toward the boards on one knee with a subtle fist pump.
–Boychuk also taught Sharp that sometimes, in an NHL game, you get hit. Sharp took great offense to Boychuk’s old-fashioned hip check along the boards.
Sharp was furious after the hit, which was perfectly legal and frankly was one that everyone else saw coming from a mile away. But that’s Boychuk, spending his Stanley Cup nights teaching lessons to opponents. What a guy.
–Sports are weird. This fact was confirmed by Nick Cotsonika’s tweet that pointed out that Zdeno Chara had been on the ice for just one goal in the seven games leading up to Game 4 … when he was on the ice for five. Sports: always weird.
–The Bruins took another penalty for too many men on the ice. It was the sixth bench minor on the Bruins this postseason, which is out-and-out ridiculous. The fact that most of the too-many-men penalties haven’t killed the Bruins is nothing short of astounding, given the franchise’s history. Perhaps Claude ought to take his team out for lunch at Five Guys for some greasy meat and a lesson on counting to five.
–I’m sure the anti-Tuukka radio callers will be out in full force leading up to Game 5. So, through 20 games, here we go:
Tuukka Rask in 2013: 14-6 record, .941 save percentage, 1.83 GAA
Tim Thomas in 2011: 12-8 record, .930 save percentage, 2.27 GAA
The six goals weren’t all Rask’s fault, and he did stop 41 shots, but just like everyone else on his team, he’s going to have to be better. Considering he has a .959 save percentage and a 1.34 GAA in games that follow a night when he allows four or more goals this postseason, you have to like his chances.
–One way which Thomas is still alive on this Bruins team is in the instances when Rask leaps to make shoulder saves. It’s not too often you see a goalie spring up like that, especially one as structured as Rask. But Tuukka is following in Thomas’ footsteps in that regard.
–Chris Kelly has turned his postseason around in the days that followed my assessment of, “Chris Kelly. Your postseason. Woof.” However, that bid from inside the crease that hit the post … woof.
It was such an easy goal that even the goal horn and spotlight operators at the Garden fired up their instruments for the celebration. Alas, it hit the post, and the game headed to overtime. Sort of a big deal.
–The Kelly miss in the second period was huge, but so was this Corey Crawford save on a doorstep bid by Jaromir Jagr in the final seconds.
Had that gone in, the roof might have literally torn off the building. And Jagr would still be talking to the media in the locker room days later.
–I feel like Viktor Stalberg was all geared up and ready to fight, or at least get into it a bit with whichever Bruins player was grabbing on to him. And then … Stalberg looked up and saw Adam McQuaid. His feelings changed.
–Tyler Seguin got ripped mercilessly on Twitter for his turnover on the power play that led to Chicago’s first goal, and to be sure, it was a terrible play by Seguin. He ended up finishing the game with a minus-3 rating, but despite that, he looked to play a better game. Him keeping his confidence that was built with the goals his line scored will be crucial for the Bruins going forward, because you’ve seen this season how ineffective Seguin can be when he’s lacking confidence.
And you can’t bury him for the minus-3, not unless you’re also going to bury Chara (minus-3), Brad Marchand (minus-3) and Patrice Bergeron (minus-2).
—Torey Krug also played his best game in a long while, which is another positive the Bruins can find in the loss. He hit the post on the power play early on, and he stood up Andrew Shaw on a rush in overtime. Little things, sure, but it was a step in the right direction after he had fallen off a bit in the past four games.
–OK, trivia time: Was this picture taken during warmups or during the game? There’s no way of knowing for sure!
–I don’t think the TV broadcast mentioned it, but Bryan Bickell pulled a really greasy move in the third period. With the Bruins working to break the puck out of their own end, David Krejci looped around near the top of the faceoff circles. Bickell skated behind him and looked to kick out Krejci’s skate, knocking Krejci to the ice. During the next stoppage, it looked Chara was screaming furiously at Bickell, but the officials kept them apart. Krejci later dumped Bickell along the boards, which was no coincidence.
Given that it’s the Stanley Cup Final, there won’t exactly be great opportunities for the Bruins or Blackhawks to settle any scores. But in terms of “building up hate,” as they say, plays like that make it pretty easy.