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Brent Seabrook #7 of the Chicago Blackhawks celebrates with Duncan Keith #2 after scoring the game winning goal against the Boston Bruins in overtime in Game Four of the 2013 NHL Stanley Cup Final at TD Garden on June 19, 2013 in Boston, Massachusetts.
While a lot of the focus after Game 4 was on the lackluster goaltending shown by Boston Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask and Chicago Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford, the defensive breakdowns of the Hawks should be getting more attention.
Whether it was Johnny Oduya coughing the puck up to Jaromir Jagr, who was sprawled out on the ice at one point and managed to get back to the puck before Oduya could get rid of it, or Niklas Hjalmarsson meekly shying away from a Rich Peverley slap shot in the first period, the Hawks’ blue liners had their fair share of hiccups in the game.
Ultimately, Oduya and Hjalmarsson each ended up on the ice for four goals against (to make matters worse for Hjalmarsson, he wasn't on the ice for any Chicago goals), so their undisciplined plays listed above weren't isolated incidents.
The forwards for the Hawks weren’t much better either. They had individually bad plays, like the failed clear and turnover/tumble combo by Brandon Saad on the first goal for the Bruins, and they also had some team breakdowns, with a lack of emphasis on the forechecking game in the third period of the contest. This stood in direct contrast to the aggression that the Hawks played with in the first and second periods in the neutral zone, and was a big part of the reason why the Bruins were able to get so many good chances against Crawford in the game.
Finally, the team’s penalty killing unit was, in a word, inconsistent. They gave up two power play tallies to Boston, and they seemed to have a difficult time winning puck battles along the boards in the process. The assertiveness in jumping passing lanes was still there, as it was when Michal Handzus picked up a short-handed goal on a rush with Michael Frolik, but the willingness to do the nitty gritty stuff just wasn’t there.
Despite this uneven effort, there were still flashes of the excellent blue line play that has defined the Hawks during the postseason. Throughout the first period, the Hawks would draw a forward back toward the blue line, and have a defenseman pinch in to the faceoff circles. This play, worked to perfection several times, allowed the Hawks’ blue liners to fire pucks on net and create scoring chances in front on rebounds, and on plays like Jonathan Toews’ goal, it worked to perfection.
That offensive attitude was the one saving grace of the Hawks’ defensemen in the game. Brent Seabrook scored the game winning goal in overtime, but he also had several other sequences in which he was able to continue plays by saving the puck from exiting the zone and firing it back in. Michal Rozsival also had a good game on the offensive side of things, picking up the primary assist on Toews’ goal with his shot from the point and also getting a secondary assist for his shot prior to Patrick Kane’s goal.
Much like the pundits arguing that Hawks fans need to give Crawford a break for one bad game, the Hawks’ defense has been excellent throughout the playoffs, and therefore needs to be cut some slack for a lackluster effort in Game 4.