Game Four was a wild departure from what we saw in Games One through Three. Reason being, these two teams learned a little something about their opponent over the course of those early games. And each was able to employ a different approach as they entered Game Four.
For Boston, there was a not so subtle emphasis on where to shoot on Corey Crawford. Crawford is beat to the glove on all five Boston goals in Game Four. I project a lot more of the same in Game Five. If you accept that Crawford is weak there; he’s probably not going to have a noticeably stronger glove hand by Saturday night, right? Furthermore, you just have to believe that Boston is in his head by now.
Chicago, on the other hand, has had virtually no space to operate inside the Bruins zone. Kane specifically, appeared to go to school on this. Notice on Chicago’s third goal how he moves the puck from low to high and, in turn, gets Boston scrambling. So much so that when the puck pops loose in the low slot, the Bruins have left the most dangerous player on the ice unchecked.
Chicago makes two other key adjustments. First, Seabrook, Keith and Oduya are frequently up in the offense. Gosh, even Roszival had two assists from the back end. Where this pays off is on a play like Seabrook’s OT winner. Initially, he jumps up into the play then pulls back. This creates enough separation between him and Jagr so that when the puck eventually transitions to Seabrook, he has ample time to eyeball his shot and tee it up.
Second, on Chicago’s fifth goal, scored by Sharp, Hossa’s quick release is the difference-maker and an obvious change in approach for the Hawks when with the man advantage. Hossa outlets to Keith and then he gets it right back. Hossa then uses a very compact quick release to get a shot off before the Bruins can adjust coverage. When the puck comes off Rask’s right pad, the home team is scrambling to pick up Sharp. Sharp has time to pull the rebound out of his own feet and chip it past Rask.
“Familiarity breeds contempt” may have been written for playoff hockey. However, in the case of the Bruins and Blackhawks, this enhanced knowledge of the other team’s tendencies is making for more and more entertaining hockey. If the last one is any indication, Game Five ought to be a dandy!
See you around the rink.