CHICAGO — Up and down the ice the Blackhawks and Bruins raced, creating scoring chance after scoring chance in a high-wire act of a Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final.
Who wouldn’t like the brand of hockey that had players and fans on the edge of their seats for three-plus hours Wednesday night in Boston?
“The coaches always want it to be 1-0 or 2-1 or a game when there’s not too much going on and you’re playing good defensively,” Hawks winger Patrick Kane said after Friday’s practice at the United Center. “For us and the fans, we enjoy those kinds of games.”
The Hawks enjoyed it more than the Bruins as they skated to a 6-5 victory in overtime to even the best-of-seven series 2-2. When the puck is dropped for Game 5 on Saturday night at the United Center, the Hawks would love nothing more than to stage another track meet — benefiting their style of play over a Bruins team that would prefer to play in a rink-shaped vat of molasses.
“We definitely want to push the pace and play fast,” Kane said. “I don’t know if we want it to be an up-and-down, back-and-forth game but … just try to play fast. Use our speed to our advantage, whether that’s not getting held up by their defensemen or not getting picked (and) just keeping our momentum into their end. Even when we come back, (it’s) keeping our momentum and use it to transition on the rush.”
The 11 goals scored in Game 4 marked the highest-scoring game of the postseason leaguewide and were the most in a Stanley Cup Final contest since the Hawks topped the Flyers 7-4 in Game 5 of the 2010 finals. Twenty-two of the 36 skaters in Wednesday’s game had at least one point — including six multipoint efforts.
“Game 4 was a little too wide open,” Hawks rookie winger Brandon Saad said. ‘We don’t want to go back and forth like that, but we do want to play with that pace and use that speed and play aggressive. We can tighten up a little defensively, but that’s the speed you want to play with as a team.”
In the Hawks’ two victories in the series, they have scored a total of 10 goals. The Bruins, meanwhile, notched a combined four goals in their two triumphs.
During the regular season, the Hawks were second in the NHL in scoring with an average of 3.10 goals per game while the Bruins ranked 13th at 2.65. The Hawks topped the league with a plus-53 goal differential while Boston was tied for fourth at plus-22.
“It’s definitely not our game,” Bruins forward Patrice Bergeron said Friday of full-throttle offensive play. “(We) just have to stick to what’s successful for us.”
Aside from the Hawks’ stable of scorers — including Kane, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa — they are at their best when their defensemen activate the offense coming out of their own zone.
“We’re trying to get up in the play … and help be involved and push the pace. That’s a big factor,” blue liner Duncan Keith said. “We just try to create off … our ability to skate pucks through the neutral zone and skate them over the blue line, rather than having to dump it in every time.”
The key now for the Hawks is to re-create the style of play that allowed them time and space and enough room to maneuver to turn on the jets and approach Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask with speed. That is easier said than done against a Bruins team that has shown an uncanny ability to dig in and clog the neutral zone.
“You don’t really know what to expect in this series,” Kane said. “Game 1 you had three overtimes, Game 2 was a tight 2-1 game, then they took it to us in Game 3 and in Game 4 you see 11 goals. We’re not really sure what to expect.”