The original plan, and it seemed like a good one before Game 4, was to write about the many similarities between the 2013 Stanley Cup final and the 2011 final, which made some news locally.
It was obvious, right? Through the first three games of the series, the Boston Bruins were doing to the Chicago Blackhawks exactly what they’d done to the Vancouver Canucks two years before.
They’d taken the Hawks’ stars out of the series and completely asphyxiated their power play. That allowed the Bruins to play with an edge, and their depth and physicality were wearing down the Hawks.
Throw in a goalie who seemed unbeatable — Tim Thomas two years ago, Tuukka Rask in 2013 — and the storylines between the two series were interchangeable.
The final result also seemed inevitable. Superficially, the series might have been close but, realistically, everything was going the Bruins’ way.
Then along came Game 4 and there went the easy column.
In their electrifying 6-5 win on Wednesday night, the Blackhawks not only changed the entire complexion of the final, they did what the Canucks weren’t able to do on a consistent basis.
They dictated the terms of engagement
Whether they can do it through the series’ end game remains to be seen, but what the Hawks did in Game 4 was astonishing because, for the first time in 10 final games, the Bruins’ flaws were exposed.
The telling factors in Game 4 were the Blackhawks’ speed and creativity. And it wasn’t just for a stretch here and a stretch there. It was throughout the three periods and the overtime.
The Hawks produced 47 shots on Rask. Their stars — Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp — all scored goals. Sharp had eight shots on net. The line of Toews, Kane and Bryan Bickell was a collective plus-seven and produced the game-winner in overtime by Brent Seabrook.
As for the Bruins, Zdeno Chara, who shut down Toews through the first three games, was minus-3. Rask was ventilated for the first time since the Toronto series. Patrice Bergeron had a big game offensively, but was minus-2. It might have come down to one shot in overtime but, this night, that shot always looked like it would belong to the Blackhawks.
Hell, they even scored a power-play goal.
As mentioned, the overall effect was stunning because, in Vancouver at least, the final had taken on some drearily familiar themes.
The Bruins were too big and too deep. They had all the answers and they’d simply wear the Hawks down to a grease spot. We’d seen it before and there was no reason to think it wouldn’t happen again.
And that’s what makes the Blackhawks’ response in Game 4 so compelling.
Two years ago, the Canucks were unable to do what the Hawks did on Wednesday night. True, they had their moments, particularly in the third periods of Games 1 and 2 on home ice.
But as far as sustaining their edge in speed and skill, as far as forcing the Bruins into a game they didn’t want to play, it never happened.
Even the Canucks’ wins – 1-0 in Game 1, 3-2 in Game 2, 1-0 in Game 5 – were played in the Bruins’ favoured style.