Following up the wildest Stanley Cup Final game in quite a while is a hell of a task, but the coaches of the Chicago Blackhawks and Boston Bruins are probably okay with not trying to top it in Game 5.
After two days off, the Bruins and Blackhawks reconvene in Chicago for what is now a best-of-three for the right to hoist the Stanley Cup. The two teams are coming off a Game 4 in which 11 goals were scored, 80 shots were put on goal and nearly 70 minutes were played. These two teams probably could have used the rest, and the hope is that you'll see a couple of recharged teams, at least defensively and in net.
A lot of people are suggesting that Corey Crawford needs to be better, and that he got exposed during Game 4, in which he was particularly weak on his glove side. That is true, but let's not forget: Tuukka Rask also played in that game, and gave up six goals of his own. Sure, he faced 14 more shots (47 to 33) than Crawford did, and some are bound to be out of his control, but regardless, the best goaltender in the postseason gave up six in a Stanley Cup Final game. That is borderline shocking.
The winner of this series is going to be the team that doesn't bother trying to get into a track meet like we did on Wednesday. Five goals were scored in the second period, and everyone just kept playing catch-up.That's not how you win a playoff series, especially not the Stanley Cup Final. The Bruins and Blackhawks need to return to a disciplined defensive game. The loser of the series will likely have not completely done that.
Winning Game 5 is not exactly a guarantee of ultimate victory. It gives you a better chance of winning the Stanley Cup, for sure, but the numbers aren't as overwhelming as you'd think. The winner of Game 5 in a 2-2 series wins the Stanley Cup 68 percent of the time. While that is a two to one shot, you'd think it'd be even higher, wouldn't you? A 32 percent chance of taking two in a row ain't exactly the worst odds you could give one of these two clubs.
Which goaltender rebounds?
Like I said, both goaltenders need to rebound, but perhaps there was a little too much negative attention paid Corey Crawford's performance. Tuukka Rask will almost definitely never play a worse game on a big stage like that, and most likely neither will Crawford. But Crawford can't afford another bad game, because a legitimate replacement in Ray Emery sits on the bench. At what point does he become an option? The two goalies in this series have fully emerged in the spotlight as far as the narrative goes, and will they now likely be the ones who decide the series.
Are Toews and Kane starting something?
Lost in the 11-goal shuffle on Wednesday night was that Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane both managed to score goals. For Kane, it was his first of the series and first since his hat trick in Game 5 of the Western Conference Final. For Toews, it was just his second goal in 21 games of postseason action. Toews has been excellent defensively, so his play gets a bit of a reprieve. Both players, however, must be hoping that this is a sign of things to come.
Can the Bruins defense return to stifling hockey?
Let's face it: if the Blackhawks have solved the Bruins defensive scheme, this series is over. Wednesday night proved, once and for all, that the Hawks are the better team to run and gun, and the Bruins just can't keep up. The Bruins have their defensive system for a reason: for most of the postseason it worked, stopping some of the best offensive players on the planet. On Wednesday night, the Bruins gave up as many goals as they did in their four second round wins over the New York Rangers, total. That can't happen again if Boston wants a second Stanley Cup in three years.