What a difference from game three! This time around, everyone BUT Crawford showed up to play, or was it only Crow’s glove that didn’t show up? The point being, the Hawks responded in the biggest way possible. Their success came by scoring in all the ways that every analyst and casual viewer said was needed. Let’s go over the list real quick. PP goal, shorthanded goal, 5on5 goal, star players score, role players score, and with traffic in front of the net. Check all those off, and with that, the media is back to supporting the Blackhawks. Another accomplishment for the Hawks that might be the biggest achievement out of all of this was the collapse of Chara. He was on the ice for five of the six goals, including the ot winner. If Crawford can get his head (and glove) back into the game, then the Hawks will be in a good position heading back into Chicago. Let’s look at a few keys for success that the Blackhawks will need to focus on heading into game five.
Clearing The Puck: The Hawks were going into the corners and winning pucks, but then they’d negate their hard work by throwing it carelessly up the boards to an eagerly waiting Bruins player. To make matters worse, they would attempt to clear the zone using soft finesse passes that would then be easily held in. Some of which would end up in the back of the net or at least lead to a pristine scoring opportunity for the Bruins. Maybe that would be acceptable any other night, but Crow was not playing up to his usual standard. The Hawks might need to revert to their Detroit strategy and just hoist it out and take advantage of their speed to retain possession. If the Hawks can exit their zone better, they will be avoiding a lot of mishaps. This should be a focus in practice.
Keep Crashing The Net: The Hawks doubled their goal total from the previous three games with last night’s win. They were relentless on their rushes to the net, and Toews showed why he’s so valuable with the OT winner. He out-battles Chara and Seidenberg in front, and while he wasn’t screening Rask when the shot was taken, Rask was definitely out of position. He draws Seidenberg, who I believe ends up being the screen. That’s what happens when you get in the goalie’s face. You create a screen, or you draw a defender into his line of sight and produce a perfect scoring opportunity for your teammate at the point. During game one, the Hawks were crashing the net and got a few self-created lucky bounces. They need to keep that up, and they need to remember that pretty goals are still only worth one point.
PP: The Hawks looked primed to fail when they did nothing but pass on their 20 seconds of 5on3. Then they started to move themselves around, creating chances, and they scored. You can see that they weren’t executing their typical strategy of shooting from the point as they clearly had two players poised by the net. Toews in front, and Sharp on the side. Hossa fires an off balance shot that catches Rask off guard. He keeps the shot low and directs it into Rask’s pads which give a nice juicy rebound that Sharp easily puts away. The Hawks will need to continue moving around on the PP and sustaining a net front presence. Most importantly, they need to accept that garbage goals and second chances will be their primary ways to score on Rask.
Bring Down Chara: The Hawks have done everything they can to avoid Chara. Seidenberg’s shot blocks confirm that theory. Keep in mind, Chara looked a bit gassed last night. Toews didn’t look like he struggled too much to maintain position in front of Rask. I think it’s time to stop treating Chara like he’s invincible and start taking the rushes to him. Shaw showed he would stand toe to toe with Chara, and now other Hawks are following his lead. Good, keep it up. He doesn’t seem accustomed to people working him over. So let’s see the Hawks keep him off his game.
Crow: He doesn’t need to pull out a shutout (though I wouldn’t complain) he just needs to get back into his groove. Crow kept them in it all through game three, and that should be proof enough that he can perform for game five. He was a little anxious all night, whether it was over sliding on a save or completely misjudging 40 foot shots, but all he needs to do is simply calm down. I’m sure the glove and positioning will be the focus with Stephane Waite, the Hawks’ goalie coach. From this point out, no one can take the night off. As long as Crow can perform, the Hawks should hold the advantage.