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Chicago Blackhawks: Three Reasons They Won

By Matt Barbato
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Despite playing what was arguably their worst game of the Stanley Cup final, the Chicago Blackhawks managed to pull out a 2-1 victory behind a strong 24-save performance from Corey Crawford. The Hawks head back to Tampa Saturday night for a pivotal Game 5 with the series tied at two games apiece.

There was plenty of drama from the pre-game skate all the way until the final buzzer. From Ben Bishop being held out to the flurry of golden opportunities from Tampa at the end, Game 4 had just a little bit of everything.

The Hawks persevered through a slow start and got just enough goaltending to hold onto the win. Here are three reasons why the Blackhawks protected home ice in Game 4.

Crawford 

Simply put, Corey Crawford was outstanding. He faced only 25 shots, but he made some superb saves in a situation where his struggling team needed him desperately.

The Blackhawks took three separate penalties in the last 11 minutes of the first period and were outshot 9-2 by Tampa. Crawford made four saves on those man-advantages including some that were right on the doorstep of the crease. Crawford kept the game scoreless, despite how horribly his team played around him.

He really earned his second star of the game selection in the final two minutes. The Bolts put on an onslaught of pressure in the waning seconds. Crawford was forced to make four big saves in the final moments, including a Steven Stamkos point-blank wrist shot that Crawford stuffed with the pad.

The embattled Crawford has taken his share of lumps during the playoffs, but the Blackhawks can credit him for salvaging a split on home ice.

Penalty kill 

The penalty killers did a fabulous job keeping the game tied at zero after the Hawks committed three infractions in the first period. Overall, the Bolts were 0-for-4 on the power play and took only six shots on net with the extra man.

After getting off to a rough start in the playoffs, Chicago’s penalty kill unit has been very reliable. The Hawks have killed off 23 of its last 27 (85 percent) power plays, dating back to Game 1 of the Western Conference final. Tampa is just 1-of-11 on the power play through the first four games of the Cup final.

Even though the Hawks’ power play is still mostly futile, Chicago is getting dependability from its penalty killers. The Hawks don’t score on the man advantage often, but at least they aren’t letting opponents cash in either.

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Stars show up (sort of) 

The Hawks lit the lamp only twice in Game 4, but they managed to get production from each of their top five forwards. Jonathan Toews opened up the scoring when he banged home a loose puck in the crease in the second period. Brandon Saad scored what would be the game-winning goal on a true power move into the crease. Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa and Patrick Kane each contributed with assists.

Sharp earned his second point of the series. Hossa has a 3-game point streak and has four assists during the last three games. The most important name on the stat sheet is Kane, who entered Game 4 pointless in three-consecutive games for the first time all season. He wasn’t great in Game 4, but he was definitely more active than he had been previously.

The stars certainly weren’t fantastic, but they all got involved in some fashion. Some of the players have said the Hawks have yet to play their best game. It will take plenty more production from the top guns if they expect to put out an elite performance.

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