Hawks have found their stride
Though three of four games have gone to overtime, the Chicago Blackhawks have actually played a predictable series so far against the Boston Bruins. They started a bit slow, but Game 4 shows they're here to stay and the Hawks almost never start a series at the level they finish one.
They'll go through spurts of good play and then moments when they look like they're sleepwalking, just as they did in most of Game 3. Getting down 2-1 in the series was not a shock.
But eventually they find that championship level of play as they did in Game 4.
Just when it looked like the Hawks couldn't score or couldn't even win a faceoff, they were able to do both, sometimes with ease. And now Joel Quenneville has pushed every button he could, reuniting successful lines and asking his defensemen to do more on offense. The latter was especially evident in Game 4. And that's the level of play the Hawks will stay at until the series is over.
Game 4 would have been more lopsided in favor of the Hawks if not for Corey Crawford's glove, which means both teams basically had one solid victory over the other while splitting a couple of nail-biters in Games 1 and 2. But the Hawks have the home-ice advantage and this is the point in the series where it should start to matter. Confidence after a six-goal performance -- including a power-play tally -- should be infinitely higher than it was a day or so ago.
It may have taken more than 60 minutes but the Hawks found their mojo again. No one said the next two wins will be come easy, but they'll come -- and the Blackhawks will be Stanley Cup champions again.
Jesse Rogers is a reporter for ESPNChicago.com.
Bruins will surely clean it up
Game 4 was ugly. There's no sugarcoating it.
But if you expect to continue to see the kind of defensive breakdowns the Bruins displayed in Wednesday night's overtime loss, think again.
The team spent most of Thursday morning reviewing video and holding meetings specifically aimed at getting them back to playing Bruins hockey, which means a consistent forecheck, limiting mistakes, taking care of rebounds and capitalizing on turnovers.
Expect something more like Game 3 -- when Boston dictated the pace, frustrated the Blackhawks' forwards and allowed few quality scoring chances -- on Saturday night, when the teams face off in Game 5 at the United Center.
Do you think the Blackhawks will be able to get six pucks past Tuukka Rask again? No way. The Conn Smythe candidate has shown a remarkable calmness during these playoffs and won't be rattled by one bad game.
The Stanley Cup finals is now a best-of-three series, with two of those games set in Chicago. That's admittedly not ideal for the Bruins, but they're an impressive 6-3 away from home in this postseason.
Game 4 was a wake-up call. From here on out, you're going to see the Bruins' brand of hockey, the style that shut down the Blackhawks in Game 3 and swept the vaunted Penguins scoring machine in the Eastern Conference finals.
The Bruins will raise their second Stanley Cup in three seasons, the only question is whether they'll win it in Boston in six games or in Chicago in seven.
Joe McDonald covers the Bruins for ESPNBoston.com.