Since the beginning of June, Boston goaltender Tuukka Rask had only allowed seven goals over a seven game stretch and was running hot with a save percentage of .960-.980. He has done more than enough to prove that is a top-tier goaltender, but any goaltender sustaining those kind of numbers over any period of time is unrealistic and Rask was going to come back down to Earth sooner or later. Last night, that finally happened as Rask gave up six goals in the Bruins overtime loss to the Blackhawks. It's hard to put all of the blame on the Boston goaltender because he had to make 41 saves, but he showed signs of being human last night after stopping almost everything for the past month or so.
Rask's excellent play has carried the Bruins through more than a few games this post-season and even though that didn't happen last night, they still forced overtime and gave him five goals in support. This is mostly thanks to Chicago's goaltender Corey Crawford having a very sub-par night on his own, allowing five goals on 33 shots and he didn't look good on at least three of them. Chicago carried the play and had the puck in the Bruins end for most of the game when the terms were even, but the Bruins scoring on over 27% of their scoring chances mitigated Chicago's territorial advantage at even strength. Boston hasn't been great in terms of possession in the last two rounds but they've found ways to get around it, whether it be elite goaltending or being able to outscore their problems. Last night, it was the latter and that wasn't enough for them to win, so it will be interesting to see how the rest of this series shakes out.
Stanley Cup Final Game 4
A recurring theme we're seeing throughout the Stanley Cup Finals is that while the Bruins have been getting outplayed at even strength, they haven't been destroyed in the scoring chance department. Don't get me wrong, they're still losing the battle overall, but the deficient isn't nearly as big as the shot totals would lead one to believe. The Bruins can still probably take the series if they get superior goaltending and win the special teams battle. Last night, their goaltending was only slightly better and the special teams battle ended up being a wash with the Bruins striking twice on the power play and and the Hawks getting one of their own and a shorthanded goal on top of that. Chicago still had the edge and even strength and while that wasn't the reason why they won, it definitely played a factor, especially in the second period where they scored three goals.
This game was a lot more open than the first three and there were plenty of moments where both teams got into a firewagon style of play and if that continues, I like Chicago's chances a little more because their defense has better skaters and can keep up with Boston's forwards. Whereas the Bruins defense is a little slower and are more prone to getting burned when they get stuck with a bad matchup. Goaltending and special teams could be the difference maker even if this is the case, though.
Blackhawks Individual Scoring Chances
Best EV Forward: Marian Hossa +4
Worst EV Forward: Michael Frolik & Marcus Kruger -2
Best EV Defensemen: Brent Seabrook, Michal Rozsival & Duncan Keith +2
Worst EV Defensemen: Johnny Oduya & Niklas Hjalmarsson -2
Chicago's play at even strength returned to its normal form last night and it's pretty obvious that getting Marian Hossa back in the lineup helped a lot. The only contribution on the scoresheet he had was one assist, but he had four shots on goal, seven shot attempts and really gave Michal Handzus' line a jolt in the arm after an ugly performance in Game 3. This was easily Chicago's best line in terms of controlling territorial play, but their first line of Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Bryan Bickell was far more productive. After the failed experiment of putting Frolik & Kruger on Toews line, Joel Quinneville decided to load up Toews' line and it paid off enormously with them producing three goals including the overtime winner. This line didn't blow away Boston at even strength, but they did create more offense than any other line and at least managed to beat Rask a couple of times. At this point, that is all the Hawks are looking for.
Most of the negatives for Chicago relate to their defense corps, specifically the Hjalmarsson/Oduya pairing, who had been so good prior to last night's game. This duo were lit up for three goals against and got their lunch handed to them by Jaromir Jagr & Patrice Bergeron on the Bruins fourth goal. Oduya also looked slow on Milan Lucic's goal and seemed to be on the ice for just about every defensive shortcoming the Blackhawks had last night. Him and Hjalmarsson have been trusted with more minutes and more ice time against Boston's top-six, but they looked completely out of their element last night for whatever reason. The play of Keith, Seabrook & Rozsival helped make up for this, but these two are still going to get a lot of important minutes the rest of the series, so hopefully for Chicago's sake this was just a bad game and nothing more.
Bruins Individual Scoring Chances
Best EV Forwards: Rich Peverley, Milan Lucic & Nathan Horton +1
Worst EV Forward: Brad Marchand -4
Best EV Defenseman: Torey Krug +4
Worst EV Defenseman: Andrew Ference -5
Even when Bergeron has an off-game, he still managed to make an impact and score two pretty big goals. As a whole, his line was pretty weak and Marchand was pretty invisible but I thought Bergeron did a lot of good things out there despite not being his usual dominant self. The Bruins first line also had one of their better games of the series and they looked very dangerous on the power play. They were pretty quiet in the last two games, so it was good to see them rebound and produce more offense.
Of course, an issue with the Bruins offensive production was that they were giving just as much back at the other end and were struggling to keep play out of their own zone. This can be said for the majority of their second & third line along with most of their defense corps. Torey Krug played well in a sheltered role, but guys like Seidenberg, Ference & Boychuk were getting trapped in their own zone quite a bit and giving up a lot of chances. Ference was the most guilty part here, and he has been getting exposed all series.
Boston has been outchanced 18-35 whenever he has been on the ice at even strength and it's hard to imagine him playing so many minutes if this keeps up. The Bruins have just been getting killed defensively whenever he is on the ice and it's usually coming against players like Hossa, Kane or Sharp so there is a high chance that those mistakes will result in goals. He was only on the ice for one Chicago goal tonight, but he probably won't be so lucky the next game if he continues to be a black hole in terms of possession.
While Ference managed to escape most of the damage, Dennis Seidenberg wasn't so lucky. He had a bad pinch that led to Marcus Kruger scoring on a two-on-one, failed to corral a puck on Patrick Kane's goal and horribly misplayed the puck on the sequence prior to Seabrook's game winning goal. Seidenberg wasn't the worst defenseman on the ice for Boston, but he had a lot of moments that he would probably like to forget about. The Bruins defense is basically being held together by him & Chara right now with how badly Boychuk/Ference are struggling, so it will be important for these to have a strong performance in Game 5.
Head-to-Head at Five-on-Five
Julien didn't have a strict matchup for the Bergeron line, as he had them out there against both Toews & Handzus line for about 7-8 minutes at even strength a piece. Toews was able to handle Krejci's line well but came out a negative against Bergeron. However, this was somewhat mitigated with Bergeron's line struggling to do much of anything against Handzus' line or Chicago's top two defense pairings. Handzus' line also crushed Boston's second defense pairing.
Both Keith & Seabrook did a fine job against Boston's top-six but Hjalmarsson & Oduya took a huge thumping from the Krejci line, which created a ton of problems for Chicago. Quinneville isn't one to overreact so I don't expect him to do anything drastic, but I think he'll try to keep Oduya away from Boston's more dangerous forwards next game when he has control over the matchups. Although, I'm not sure how he'll do that with Nick Leddy getting the Stu Bickel treatment last night.
|1||CHI||13:12||Handzus – GOAL||26||20||2||7||50||19||37||63||68||33||40||4v5|
|1||BOS||5:17||Peverley – GOAL||26||20||4||32||50||19||49||20||21||44||40||4v5|
|2||CHI||13:27||Toews – GOAL||19||88||29||2||32||50||46||18||17||33||55||40||5v5|
|2||CHI||11:20||Kane – GOAL||19||88||29||27||32||50||19||23||20||21||44||40||5v5|
|2||BOS||5:17||Lucic – GOAL||19||10||88||4||27||50||46||18||17||33||44||40||5v5|
|2||CHI||4:27||Kruger – GOAL||16||36||67||27||32||50||19||37||63||33||44||40||5v5|
|2||BOS||2:38||Bergeron – GOAL||16||67||7||27||50||19||37||63||68||33||40||4v5|
|3||BOS||17:55||Bergeron – GOAL||16||36||67||4||27||50||37||68||20||47||55||40||5v5|
|3||CHI||8:41||Sharp – GOAL||19||10||81||88||2||50||23||68||33||44||40||5v4|
|3||BOS||7:46||Boychuk – GOAL||16||36||65||4||27||50||46||18||17||21||55||40||5v5|