BOSTON – When we look back at the Boston Bruins 6-5 overtime loss to the Chicago Blackhawks, it might look like the Bruins just didn’t play their game. It’s no secret that the Bruins are at their best in tight games where scoring opportunities are hard to come by, not the wide-open pace of play that dominated Game 4. That’s Chicago’s game, and the prevailing sentiment is that Boston can’t win playing by Chicago’s terms. But that’s not the whole story: Boston can survive those high-scoring games against the Blackhawks, but they can’t survive the turnovers we saw last night.
The Bruins were in trouble as soon as the puck bounced past Dennis Seidenberg to Patrick Kane a little under ten minutes into overtime. The rest of the Bruins had to rotate out of position to cover for their defenseman, and the Blackhawks were able to work the puck back to Brent Seabrook for the game winner. The Bruins’ defense has been excellent in these playoffs when it comes to attacking the puck at the right time, but in Game 4, they were horrendous. Seidenberg might be the easiest player to point to (ending the game with an uncharacteristic -2), but it was a problem for the entire Bruins team all night.
Typically, teams that try to “open the game up” against the Bruins find themselves playing right into Boston’s hands. In the Eastern Conference Finals, the run-and-gun offensive style of the Pittsburgh Penguins in games 1 and 2 only netted them two home losses by a combined score of 9-1. The difference? The Bruins were happy to let the Penguins take risks to score, but stayed true to their own defensive system. Last night, whether it was Tyler Seguin’s mental lapse leading to Michel Handzus’ shorthanded goal or Brad Marchand’s inexcusable backcheck that allowed Marcus Kruger to score on his own rebound, the Bruins abandoned the team defense that had gotten them this far.
Unfortunately, Game 4 will be remembered for these defensive lapses and not for the stellar play of Patrice Bergeron, who is not-so-quietly becoming the face of this Bruins’ playoff run. Bergeron scored two huge goals (both on the powerplay), and led the Bruins back from two separate two-goal deficits. Bruins fans have to like Bergeron stepping up at this time of year, and if not for Seabrook’s goal in overtime, Game 4 would have gone down as another clutch playoff game for #37.
The Bruins will look to rebound in the pivotal Game 5 on Saturday night, but they shouldn’t be too concerned about the Blackhawks pushing the pace offensively. Boston showed that they can score with Chicago, and goaltender Corey Crawford has looked far from solid. But the Bruins need to limit their turnovers, and they need to play with the urgency that allows their team defense to be successful. They can’t keep giving high-quality scoring opportunities to the Blackhawks: Chicago is incredibly talented offensively, and can put pucks in the net in a hurry.
Boston doesn’t need to overreact to a more aggressive Blackhawk’s attack. As they showed last night, Boston has enough offensive talent to beat Crawford. Boston should be more focused on getting back to basics in their own end. The Bruins can win those games where they need to play well on offense. But they won’t beat the Blackhawks unless they play great on defense.