By Sarah Kwak
BOSTON -- It was apparent before it became obvious.
When Bruins forward Rich Peverley scored a power-play goal late in the first period of Game 4 with a hard snapshot that went into Chicago’s net off the right post, it looked somewhat similar to Daniel Paille’s game-winner in Game 2: a quick shot in off that far post. Paille’s winner in Game 3 also went in on Corey Crawford’s glove side.
Soon after Peverley scored, Boston winger Tyler Seguin had an open look at Chicago’s goalie and shot to that same side. Crawford made the save, but didn’t when Patrice Bergeron picked that spot -- twice. It seemed that the Bruins had read the book on Crawford, and it was three words long: Shoot glove side.
“You noticed that, huh?” said the 28-year-old goalie, who got the 6-5 win in overtime despite letting in five goals on 33 shots. “Yeah, I don’t remember too many on the blocker side. ... But you can’t start thinking. Once you start thinking everything is going to go glove, you’re in trouble. So you just have to play the shot and the situation like any other situation.”
Here’s the thing: Every goal that Crawford gave up on Wednesday night went in on his left side, prompting plenty of people to wonder what use, if any, he had for his catching glove. He wasn't entirely to blame for all of them, but the sheer fact that Boston had a plan of attack that worked so well presents a problem for the Blackhawks, who were saved by some excellent goals and second chances that they cashed in on Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask.
If Boston has found Crawford’s weakness, the question becomes: Can the Blackhawks win with him in net? Chicago coach Joel Quenneville did not indicate any concern about the glove-side pattern. When asked about it after the game, he replied, “Corey has been great for us all year, all playoffs. He just moves forward. Commend him. We got the win. You know, he’ll be fine.”
But inside, Quenneville has got to be reeling. If the Bruins keep finding success on that side of the net, he will be faced with a most difficult dilemma. Crawford has been solid for Chicago all season and he's gotten the team this far with plenty of excellent performances. But the Blackhawks also have an extremely serviceable backup in Ray Emery, who, like Crawford, had a 1.94 GAA this season, and a .922 save percentage. Heck, the guy even got a first-place vote for the Vezina Trophy.
So when does Quenneville pull the ripcord? Does he pull it at all?
The Bruins played, in the words of their coach, Claude Julien, an “average” game. “We can be a lot better,” he said. “Hopefully, if anything, that makes us even hungrier for the next game.”
Rask was not at his best, but most of Chicago’s goals came off deflections or second chances. He will have to work on rebound control and seeing through the screens that the Blackhawks are intent on putting up. But three of Boston’s goals came off of clean shots that just plain beat Crawford. And that’s what should be a concern for Quenneville. They didn’t come off of scrambles, deflections, fluky plays or lucky bounces. They were ready-aim-fired, right on target, and largely stoppable.
“[The Bruins] scored some nice goals there with guys wide open for one-timers,” Chicago defenseman Duncan Keith said. “It’s tough to make saves like that, but at the end of the day, we scored six, [and] they scored five.” The Blackhawks have to hope that Crawford's glaring weakness can be shored up, because if it's going to take as many as six goals to beat Rask and the Bruins in each game from here on, they can't expect to win the Stanley Cup.