Its already been stated numerous times how poorly the Boston Bruins played in Game 4 of the NHL Stanley Cup Finals. Facing a relentless attack from the Chicago Blackhawks, the Bruins made mistake after mistake, twice facing a two-goal deficit. In a word, it was ugly.
And yet, the game still went into overtime. Despite the mishaps Boston committed throughout the game, despite the numerous multi-goal holes they put themselves into, it took an extra frame for Chicago to get the job done.
Why? Corey Crawford‘s glove side. The Bruins scored five goals in Game 4, all of them aiming at the Blackhawks goalie’s free hand. In fact, of the 12 goals Boston has put in net this series, eight of them found a home on Crawford’s left side.
Wednesday night was proof the Bruins have found a hole in Crawford’s game, and the fact they knew how to exploit it is the only reason Boston was able to erase any lead Chicago gained. If they intend on regaining momentum in this series tomorrow night, they’ll need to keep their shots heading in the same direction.
Crawford is aware of this, he’s stated as much. This means he’s definitely going to have these glove-side deficiencies on his mind every time a Bruin winds up for a shot. Will they go to his left again because its working? Or will they know he’s going to start cheating to his glove hand, thus exposing other areas of the net? Can you see why its crucial for Boston to take advantage of this?
If a goalie’s flaw has been exploited, he’ll most likely focus a ton of energy on plugging up the hole. By over-focusing on one area of his game, Crawford could leave holes in others.
There weren’t a ton of positives from Game 4 for Boston, but this development could be crucial in their recovery. Though it would usually make more sense for blue line bombers Zdeno Chara or Johnny Boychuk to aim for Crawford’s pads to create net front rebounds, it would now be wiser to aim top shelf. Patrice Bergeron or Milan Lucic need to forget going five hole when near the crease, lift the puck instead.
Who knows if Crawford will figure out his setback successfully? For all we know, he could very likely come out in Game 5 and put on a dominant performance, snagging every glove-side shot he sees. He’s second only to Tuukka Rask in goalie stats, so this wouldn’t be a twist ending.
However, if the Bruins smell blood, they need to be fierce and aim for the jugular. Game 5 is about as crucial a night as there will be this postseason, because one thing is certain: the Stanley Cup will be present in Boston Monday night for Game 6. If the Bruins want to have a chance at hoisting it on home ice, they’ll need to take advantage of any crack in Crawford’s game.