BOSTON — The Chicago Blackhawks knew they could do this. They told us so in as many words just the day before, when Dave Bolland said “We’ll do it,” then said it one more time in case there was any doubt.
“We’ll do it.”
Well, damned if the Chicago Blackhawks didn’t do it after all.
They beat the Bruins 6-5 in yet another overtime cliff-hanger, eviscerating Tuukka Rask in the process, but even more importantly, they took the series back.
It may only be 2-2 in games as we return to Illinois, but the Blackhawks had found themselves caught in Boston’s sleeper hold, and somehow wriggled out.
Then they came at the Bruins off the top rope in Game 4, cranked up the ‘80s tunes, and turned this into a brand of fire-wagon hockey that would make the dynasty Oilers proud.
“It was our kind of game. We did the right things,” said Bolland afterwards. “We knew we had to be better. That we can’t lay down and let them stomp all over us. We knew we had to come out harder. That we had more in the tank.
“A statement? This could be a statement.”
What the Blackhawks said wasn’t, “We’re way better than you are, Boston, and this is going to be over fast.” It was a 6-5 overtime game. Chicago blew two two-goal leads.
What Chicago’s game said was, “You may have had it your way for a couple games, Boston. But we just walked into your house and shoved OUR game down your throats. Now we’re heading home for two of the next three.
“See ya there.”
Said Bolland: “We keep playing our game now. We’re flying, playing that speed game that we’re doing here (in Boston).”
And this series? This is shaping up to the most compelling Cup final in years.
Edmonton-Carolina in 2006, or Tampa-Calgary in ’04 each went seven, but the pedigree of those four teams wasn’t quite what we have here. Neither Boston nor Chicago is surprising anyone — they’re both powerhouses.
Pittsburgh and Detroit’s back to back Cups in 2008-09 were something special, in a torch-passing kind of way. Boston-Vancouver featured too many blow outs to be considered a true classic. Same for L.A.-New Jersey last year.
Here, we have three overtime games in the first four, and another 2-0 game that had “Bruins Hockey” stamped all over it.
From that to 6-5. Awesome.
In a time when coaches have squeezed so much life out of the game, what happened at the TD Garden Wednesday night was like Christmas in June.
“I hope it was entertaining for you (media) guys,” smiled Niklas Hjalmarsson. “As a defenceman, five goals against is too much. I was on the ice for three of them. But as long as we win, I’ll be minus-3 every single game.”
What happened here?
“I think we played Chicago hockey today. Good pace, puck control,” he said. “We just gave up some really bad timely goals, after we scored.”
Mistakes. The legendary coach Scotty Bowman surmised in the post-game dressing room that players are growing tired, and as Chicago upped the pace, requiring quicker and more accurate decisions, the mistakes flowed.
With mistakes came scoring chances, and with scoring chances came goals.
Two for the Conn Smythe fave Patrice Bergeron. One for big Milan Lucic from his office in the low slot. A Johnny Boychuk blast, a Rich Peverley shot — all five goals sailing past Corey Crawford’s glove hand.
They’re picking on this kid’s glove side — it’s as plain as the nose on Brad Marchand’s face.
“Ya, it’s pretty obvious,” Crawford admitted. “I can’t start thinking about it. I can’t start thinking they’re going to go glove every time. If they switch it up, I’m in trouble.”
Crawford had a rough one, but he had cavalry on this night, and his boys always seemed to have one more goal than the Bruins could muster.
Jonathan Toews was reunited with Patrick Kane and finally scored a goal. Two minutes later Kane scored one too. Old Mike Handzus found his 20-years-ago legs and finished off a shorthanded two-on-one to open the scoring.
Marcus Kruger got one for the fourth line. Sharp required just the game-high eight shots for a goal, his second of the Cup.
“It was a fun game to be a part of,” Sharp said. “Lots of scoring chances, lots of big hits, a lot of physical play. Scrums. Trash talking. Lots of respect on both sides — nothing too dirty out there.
“It was a great playoff game. Fun to be a part of.”
Every time Chicago scored, Boston countered. It was completely unpredictable at all times and you’d have thought the coaches had stayed home, their instructions were disregarded so.
Rask gave up a half-dozen in this one — three times his series total against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
And the fans left disappointed, but raspy-throated and wildly entertained.
Seatbelts, folks. This ride has only just begun.