It was a wild one at the Garden on Wednesday night. After being shut out in Game 3, the anticipation heading into Game 4 rose for the Chicago Blackhawks. On the flip side, the Boston Bruins were simply looking to continue their momentum swing and head back to the Windy City with a 3-1 series lead.
While some counted the 2010 Cup champs out for having a lackluster performance, I knew from watching them all postseason that this Hawks team was much better than to simply roll over without a fight – and they proved that on Wednesday.
At the 6:48 mark of the first period with the Blackhawks shorthanded, Michal Handzus scored his third of the postseason to put Chicago out in front. But later on in the opening frame, the Bruins found themselves on the power play and this time they did right as Rich Peverley potted his second past a screened Corey Crawford to knot things up.
In the second, though, the TD Garden got quiet as Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane scored within a few minutes of each other to put the Hawks up by a pair. This was exactly the type of play I was expecting from Chicago heading into Wednesday night and it appeared as if they were on the right track.
But not so fast. At the 14:43 mark of the second, Milan Lucic backhanded his sixth of the postseason past Crawford to pull Boston to within a goal – and just like that, the Garden was alive and well. But just 49 seconds later, Chicago’s Marcus Kruger wristed his third of the postseason past Tuukka Rask and the lead was back at two again.
To their tremendous credit, however, the Bruins did not give in. Late in the frame, the B’s put enormous pressure on Corey Crawford while on the power play and Patrice Bergeron jumped on a lucky bounce and put it past the Hawks netminder to pull Boston to within a goal. The Garden was so electric that after the B’s narrowly missed tying the game in the waning seconds of the period, the goal horn accidentally went off. It had turned into that wild of a contest.
Heading into the third, Game 4 promised to be a classic finish – and it was.
Boston knew they had to continue their frantic pace heading into the third and just 2:05 into the frame, it was Patrice Bergeron again, tying the game and nearly blowing the roof off the TD Garden in the process.
At the 11:19 mark, however, with most thinking the Blackhawks were on the ropes, Patrick Sharp slid in a power play goal to regain the Chicago lead. But just 55 seconds later, Johnny Boychuk came back the other way and slapped his sixth past Crawford to electrify the building once again.
If the first three games of this series were any indication, I would have safely assumed that the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoffs’ Most Valuable Player would be rewarded to either one of the goaltenders. In Game 4, however, that assumption wavered as this series suddenly turned into an offensive onslaught.
For the third time in four games, the Bruins and Blackhawks were heading into overtime. Suddenly, I remembered my days at Blockbuster Video when I worked overtime and absolutely loathed it. From being shot with pricing guns to renting Beaches, those were some dark days. But this was different. This was the Stanley Cup Final with two Original Six franchises trading blows and fighting until the bitter end.
While the late, great sportswriter Jerome Holtzman insisted that there was to be no cheering in the press box, I could not help but be on the edge of my seat – or when I was standing, clutching and pulling the backs of the seats in front of me.
While Brent Seabrook’s goal at the 9:51 mark of the first overtime left the Garden Faithful disappointed, Game 4 of the 2013 Stanley Cup Final should have been a concrete reminder to even the most fair-weather of fans why we love this game and furthermore why it would have been such a colossal mistake to boycott this game – like most said they would during the lockout.
Like Games 1 and 2, Game 4 between the Hawks and Bruins was a classic and while I was disappointed that my Los Angeles Kings did not have the opportunity to win their second-straight championship, this scenario is just as good, if not better.
It’s one thing to think a matchup like this would be great but it’s quite another to see how great a matchup it is right before our very eyes.
Whether you’re a fan of the Blackhawks, Bruins, Kings or just a general hockey fan who loves and appreciates any team at any level, no one can possibly shy away from the fact that the 2013 Stanley Cup Final has already proven to be one of the greatest matchups in the Stanley Cup’s long, rich, deep-rooted history.
I am certainly very proud to be part of such a spectacle.