Just as they did on Wednesday, the Blackhawks are faced with a gargantuan challenge: Beat the Bruins. They did it the last time, and now their challenge has got ultimately easier.
The odds are in the Blackhawks favour this time, instead of against them. They return to the Madhouse, a place that has seen great success for them in the post-season, and they have the momentum in the series after the game four win. Some questions still need to be answered, however.
Will Corey Crawford bounce back? He has had a terrific post-season and is poised to take home some extra hardware if the Blackhawks beat the Bruins. Although he has been very good, he was shaky on Wednesday night, letting in 5 goals, and prompting many analysts and fans to turn to his glove hand as the catalyst for this problem. All Crawford has to do is stay cool in net, and let his great positioning help him out at times where the Bruins are pressing. He doesn’t have to be perfect, just good enough that the Blackhawks’ defense can clear, and the offense can get some opportunities of their own.
Will the stars stay shining? Game four saw the Blackhawks’ top guns come out of hiding, including captain Jonathan Toews, with his first goal in 10 playoff games. Patrick Kane also added a goal and an assist after only notching a lone point in the three games beforehand. The first line was once again the most dynamic, and they seemed to be in the middle of everything, giving Zdeno Chara‘s top pairing some hard minutes that translated into mistakes down the road.
Will Nick Leddy and the rest of the defense make an impact? After the game, many realized that Nick Leddy, rising star for the Blackhawks, played a meager four shifts, even though the game took more than 3 periods to decide. Niklas Hjalmarsson and Johnny Oduya struggled with a couple of turnovers in the defensive zone that gave the Bruins the puck, and led to a couple of goals. Michal Roszival was surprisingly strong, and showed great patience with the puck. As always, Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith played the big minutes, and they were great all night long, even getting the most important goal of the game; the last one. It would make it a lot easier on Joel Quenneville if all seven defenseman come to play on Saturday, so the Blackhawks’ big blue-liners don’t face all of the minutes, as this series will need at least one more game to decide.
The Blackhawks can’t take their foot off the gas pedal now. They are two games away from their goal, and the opportunity to take a big step forward with a win at home tonight can be the series-changing moment. In order for the Blackhawks to define their season with this game, their game will have to define them. They will have to play with the speed and skill that they have throughout the year, backed by the grit of a long playoff run, and great defense on the blue-line and between the pipes.
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