Oh, how quickly things can change.
After the Boston Bruins beat the Chicago Blackhawks Monday night in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final, the home team looked almost bulletproof. They played suffocating defense, denying scoring chances and rebound opportunities. The goaltending of Tuukka Rask was stellar when it had to be, and Boston got goals from star center Patrice Bergeron and depth dude Daniel Paille.
A 2-1 lead in a best-of-seven isn't all that meaningful, but the Bruins were in a good position, and they had imposed their will on the Blackhawks over consecutive games. Boston deftly kept Chicago from using its speed advantage, turning Games 2 and 3 into more of a street-fight mentality. Chicago can play a more physical, grinding style, but it isn't the perfect match for that roster. That showed as Boston won those two games.
However, the series turned on a dime in Game 4. The Blackhawks started going to the net, and they went right after Boston's top defensive pairing of captain Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg. Rask was -- at least in my opinion -- still quite good in Game 4. If he hadn't been, Chicago could have hit double figures with how its skilled players were abusing Boston's defense.
The Blackhawks were so good with the puck Wednesday that they evened the series despite the worst game goalie Corey Crawford has played in eons.
On Saturday, Crawford was sharper, and while Rask was still Rask, it wasn't nearly enough to overcome shoddy defense, lackluster attack, and an injury to Bergeron that sent him to the hospital before the game was decided.
This isn't unfamiliar territory for the Bruins. Just two short years ago, the Canucks shut out Boston in Game 5 at home, only to get blown out in Games 6 and 7, including a 4-0 loss in the deciding game on home ice.
As the series makes its way back to Beantown, there are a few interesting storylines. Unfortunately, it starts with injuries.
The Bruins confirmed that Bergeron was indeed taken to a hospital due to an undisclosed injury. There was nothing obvious -- at least nothing that NBC showed -- to indicate what would have happened to Bergeron.
Meanwhile, Chicago captain Jonathan Toews didn't play in the third period. He took a hard high hit from Boston's Johnny Boychuk in the second period, which led to plenty of concussion speculation, but nothing was disclosed by the team.
Chara has been on the ice for eight of Chicago's last nine goals. I know it hasn't diminished my respect for him or his game at all, but there's no doubt Chara has struggled since the Blackhawks started taking the game right to him, instead of almost playing scared of him.
This is a key point. As the home team coach, Joel Quenneville had his choice of matchups on Saturday. Until Toews went down, he and Kane were constantly on the ice against Chara.
With Boston hosting Game 6, what does Claude Julien do? Do you keep rolling the dice with Chara against whichever of Chicago's stars are able to play in the game? And how do things end up looking if Bergeron and Toews have to sit on Monday?
Even when Bergeron was playing, Julien wasn't getting enough out of his top six. Brad Marchand was average at best, and David Krejci really struggled. I thought Milan Lucic had his moments, but it wasn't until the third period that the Bruins really had a lot of push in the offensive zone.
The Stanley Cup will be in TD Garden on Monday night. The Bruins will do what they can to keep it in the box, but if they don't get more push out of their healthy forwards and better defensive play, they will have a very tough time forcing a Game 7.