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Back To Chicago

by Stu Grimson / Nashville Predators

Game Four was not do or die for Chicago … it just felt that way going into it. And judging by the way the first five and a half minutes were played, the visiting team knew they simply could not get behind 3-1 in this series. This was a wild one by contrast to the series’ previous three games.

Before this one is seven minutes old, Chicago is on the board. Michal Handzus demonstrates why it pays to go to the net. A great little area pass from Brandon Saad; he lays it out in front of Handzus who chips it deftly past Bruins netminder Tuukka Rask as he barrels toward the blue paint. 1-0 Chicago. And a shorty to boot. Big start for the Hawks.

But if there’s one thing you can say about both these teams; they are resilient. Later that same period Boston bounces back. On a set penalty kill play in the Chicago zone, Handzus wins the draw back and out the weak side to Saad as the low outlet. Saad fails to ice it in the first instance and then, as the play transitions back to the mid-slot, he missteps again and Peverley grabs the loose puck and snaps it by Crawford glove side. Tied at ones.

Early in the second, an overdue Toews breaks the tie on a rare moment when Chicago is able to outman Boston in front of its own net. Toews enters and filters one back to the point where Rozsival is able to send it toward the net and Toews redirects it past Rask.

Shifts after goals are huge; whether for or against you. Kane and his Hawks seem mindful of the adage as Kane finally finds some quiet ice as he enters the Bruins zone. From there, he distributes the puck low first then high later which gets the Bruins scrambling. This creates some space and confusion not previously found in this end of the ice. Kane jumps down, collects a loose puck off Bickell’s play to the net and he bangs it past Rask.

And this is where it starts to get wild; these two teams are mostly trading goals from here on out.

Lucic is able to draw the Bruins back to within one but only to have Kruger notch another insurance marker for Chicago. A nice little feed from Frolik and a strong move to the far post by Kruger. Rask stays with him and gets a pad on it. But credit Kruger for sticking with it; he’s able to wait out Rask and tuck it behind the Boston netminder.

The Bruins catch another break as Bergeron tracks one off the end wall as it bounces back over to the net front. 4-3 Chicago.

Early in the third, Bergeron scores again as he and Jaromir Jagr work it down low in the Chicago zone. Now we’re even again and does it get interesting from here.

A rare power play goal near the mid-point of the third period puts Chicago ahead again. Hossa, while playing the point, releases a quick little shot from off his weak side. Not a heavy shot but Hossa’s compact release is the key to getting it through. In prior games, Boston shot blockers are dropping in front of this play and snuffing out the chance before it develops. Sharp collects the rebound and sends it past a sprawling Rask.

Would you believe this though? Less that a minute later, Boston is back to even on a stiff blast from the point by Boychuk. Boychuck does a great job of eating up the open ice in front of him and improving his angle before he blasts it by Crawford glove side. Tied again with less than 8:00 remaining.

Yep, you guessed it. Overtime again.

Chances are fairly rare during overtime until Seabrook grabs the puck off a blocked shot and takes it back high inside Bruins territory. He launches one far side from well out through a good bit of traffic and beats Rask far side to end it.

This series has provided a little something for everyone as Game Four closes out. Tight, grinding, defensive hockey and now, plenty of wide-open high scoring action. Looking back, I suspect both clubs learned a little something about their opponent on this night. First, did you count how often the Bruins shot glove hand on Crawford?

Second, Chicago is finding ways to penetrate in the Bruins end where they’ve almost been suffocated in games one through three. The transition from high to low (or vice versa) inside the Bruins zone is giving Boston fits. Also, the Chicago defenders were much more active on the offensive side of the puck in this one; that paid off big. (see Seabrook on the OT winner) And lastly, Hossa proves it doesn’t have to be a bomb from the point to be effective; it just needs to be quick so that it gets through.

We’re down to a best of three for all the marbles. Game Five back in Chicago on Saturday will be electric. These two teams have proven that they are as closely matched as any two we’ve seen in any recent Cup final.

See you around the rink.

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