2013 NHL Stanley Cup Final - Game Four

The headline’s a bit dramatic, if only because who the hell knows what happens going forward with injuries and the potential for terrifyingly bad luck, but if everything stays the same as it currently sits, I feel like the Stanley Cup is waiting to be dropped from it’s dunk tank-like perch into Corey Crawford and the Blackhawks’ hands…if he can just throw a couple strikes at the target.

Last night was huge for Chicago. If Boston scores the OT winner they head back to the Windy City with three cracks to beat Chicago once. The Blackhawks would be in full second-guessing themselves mode, having blown multiple leads and having given up six. Quenneville might tinker with the lines, or the lineup as a whole. Crawford is strung up from a sturdy branch. Ray Emery starts answering more questions. The whole thing starts to unravel, because that’s how the reactionary world of sports works.

But winning heals everything, and in the process, the Blackhawks had a barrel full of back-monkeys jump off, which will entirely free their stars up mentally to play the game as they can again. Jonathan Toews starred as The Beast in the Crease and scored for the first time since May, a span of 10 games dating back to the Red Wings’ series. Patrick Kane scored his first goal of the Stanley Cup Final. Patrick Sharp got his second of the Final. Hell, they even scored a powerplay goal.

And further, Marian Hossa made it all the way through the game and now doesn’t have to play again until Saturday, which means he gets an extra day to heal up, and will definitely play in Game 5. Those of you who’ve played through injuries know just how valuable that extra day can be – where the one day off in between contests means you wake up going “Ughhh f*************k, everything hurts,” there’s the potential to feel human with the bonus day in there.

Now they’ve got two of three games in the Madhouse on Madison. Everything would be peachy and perfect if it weren’t for this one large, scary elephant hiding behind the dresser:

The hell is up with all those low-glove goals on Corey Crawford? Is this a thing? Is shooting there like using The Cheat Move in NHL ’94?

2013 NHL Stanley Cup Final - Game Four

I wrote the other day after the last Bruins’ win that Corey Crawford is “legit” (point #10), because he is. He’s done more than enough to prove that to me, so I’m not questioning him in the big picture. His numbers have been stellar in the post-season, which accurately reflects his play.

But this low glove stuff, it just keeps happening…

And happening…

And happening…

And happening…

And happening…

And happening…

And happening…

I mean, you get the picture. A lot of those shots are great plays that you can’t really fault Crawford on, but the sheer volume of pucks that are beating him to the same spot has to be getting into his head.

Most goalies hold their glove above their pad, almost exactly where those shots are going, then react upwards as players shoot for the top corners. You can see it on the (non-OT) Dan Paille goal, where Tyler Seguin gets robbed going glove side prior to his linemate scoring – if you actually get the puck up into the upper corners, he’s making those saves. While I’m no goalie analyst, that says to me that he’s almost too eager, and guessing that the shots are going to be perfectly placed upstairs, rather than waiting to see where they really go.

(By the way, I have doubts that the Bruins have isolated “low” to the glove side, because it’s a relatively uncommon place to try to score, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they’ve targeted what they feel to be Crawford’s weak side.)

Crawford was asked about it after the game (in a jovial tone – winning heals everything and makes everything okay, never forget), and said this about the Bruins repeatedly going glove side on him (at the 30 second mark):

For the video impaired:

“It’s pretty obvious. I can’t start thinking about it; that’s when I get myself in trouble if I start thinking about that. … I’m just going to keep playing my game, prepare the way I have and play the way I play. I can’t start thinking they’re going to go glove every time. If they end up switching it up, then I’m in trouble.”

That’s a nice answer, but the fact that it’s so obvious that we’re discussing it, and he’s aware of it, means he’s aware of it. I still haven’t become a goalie analyst since I said I wasn’t a couple paragraphs ago, but I feel like it’s probably a bit of a mental hindrance to go from positional and reactionary to positional and reactionary and DON’T THINK GLOVE DON’T CHEAT GLOVE DON’T THINK GLOVE.

For all the digital fellatio Boston has been deservedly given over the past handful of days, Chicago suddenly finds themselves in a beautiful position for all the reasons I pointed out earlier in the article. No team is at 100% right now, but that OT goal by Seabrook has them positioned as well as they could hope heading into Game 5.

The biggest question mark for them right now is in the crease. With the roulette wheel stopping on black, black, black, black, black, black and so on, is Crawford mentally strong enough to avoid sliding his chips to that side, or will all this glove attention start to make him cheat? He dodged a bullet with a Blackhawks’ win last night, but has to know some focus is starting to shift his way.

If he can throw a couple strikes in the next few games, I like the Blackhawks to win the Cup.

The biggest concern for them right now is whether or not another wild pitch or two is coming.