CHICAGO – Jonathan Toews didn’t think the Chicago Blackhawks would need six goals to win Game 4 of the Stanley Cup final. By the time Patrick Sharp scored with 8:41 left in the third period to make it 5-4, he figured it would be enough.
It wasn’t, but the Blackhawks managed to tie the series when Brent Seabrook’s overtime goal gave them a 6-5 win over Boston. Still, they know they must adjust on the defensive end going back to Chicago for Game 5 Saturday night.
“There’s a give-and-take as far as the quality and quantity we give up. We always measure how we play is what we give up,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “I just don’t think we want to just exchange scoring chances, knowing that we’re giving up odd-man breaks. That’s not part of our game, and it’s not part of the way we want to play.”
That open style certainly suits the Blackhawks better than the Bruins, even as Claude Julien took exception to the notion that his team played “rough-and-tumble” hockey and not much else. Boston doesn’t want to get into an end-to-end game, considering the ways Chicago can turn up the speed and have it translate into offence.
“I don’t think any coach likes the back-and-forth, exchanging chances,” Julien said. “Although it’s exciting for the fans, you’re looking for some zone time.”
Eleven goals made for quite the departure from Games 2 and 3 when the teams combined for five. It was just another twist in a series that Blackhawks right-winger Patrick Kane called “pretty bizarre.”
“I guess it’s good for the fans to keep watching and keep them guessing for what’s next,” Kane said.
Not so good for the coaches, goaltenders and defences involved. Game 4 was the first real rough night of the playoffs for Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask, even though most of the goals weren’t on him, and Quenneville had to reaffirm his stance Thursday that Corey Crawford would remain in net for the Blackhawks moving forward.
Crawford’s teammates assumed some of the pressure for the offensive explosion and explained what they need to do to cut down on Boston’s chances.
“I think as forwards we can maybe be a little more responsible and getting in shooting lanes the way they would against us,” Toews said. “I think there’s something to be said about blocking shots and maybe helping our goaltender out a little bit more.”
Seabrook, whose goal 9:51 into overtime ensured the Blackhawks wouldn’t be lamenting some defensive breakdowns, credited forwards for backchecking and conceded that things opened up once the Bruins went all-out to come back from a couple of two-goal deficits. Nevertheless, getting back to defensive fundamentals is key.
“It’s big for our team to play at both ends of the rink,” Seabrook said. “You know, we’ve taken pride in our defensive game all year. I think some penalty-kill goals last game, I think that’s uncharacteristic of our group, and we’ve got to shore that up for the next game. We’re not going to be able to score six against Boston every night.”
If it’s up to Rask and the Bruins, the Blackhawks won’t score six goals the rest of the series. But Julien isn’t going to apologize for his team breaking out of a stereotype and scoring five goals.
“We should be happy with that,” he said. “The goals that we gave (up) a lot of times were just guys not being in the right place where they should have been. Instead of stopping in our positions, we did a lot of curling last night, which is usually a sign of our team struggling.”
Pushing the pace is not a sign of Chicago struggling. Quite the opposite for a team equipped to trade chances.
Still, there’s something dangerous about the risks associated with keeping up that kind of tempo.
“You know if you’re going to get something at the other end, you’d better cash in, or you’d better take advantage of the puck because you know it’s going down the other end, so you want to make sure you manage that better,” Quenneville said. “I don’t think you want to just get out there and exchange high-quality chances because the team that’s a little more patient will probably have a little more success if that’s the case.”
Patience is easier for the team that possesses the puck, something Julien pointed out was crucial to returning to “Bruins hockey.” He meant getting offence going the other way, not slowing things down to a crawl.
From the Blackhawks’ perspective, it’s more about making the right decisions while also maintaining a quicker pace.
“As far as our speed and our puck control, I think we were very responsible with it,” Toews said. “It’s something we want to keep going forward with, and I think we can even build on in the next game. The better you play and the more you have the puck, and when you score a big goal especially in our own building come Saturday night, it’s going to give us even more energy.”
Energy came and went with changes in scoring in Game 4. Both teams will try to contain those wild swings of momentum, and which one manages to do it best could end up with the Cup.
That requires a change, even for the Blackhawks.
“We’ve got to be expected to come out and win a Game 1-0, 2-1,” Seabrook said. “Those are the kind of games that are going to be going forward here, and we’ve got to be better in all zones.”