CHICAGO – With the series tied and the champions to be determined by Wednesday night, both clubs are looking everywhere they can for an edge. It might be through inserting a depth player to go up against an opposing winger on what is determined a weak side. Or it might be switching position among players on a given line just to confuse an opponent. After all, home team gets the last change. But something is happening with analysis of the goaltenders and where weaknesses exist.
For Chicago, Corey Crawford was stellar in game one and pretty good in games two and three allowing a total of 7 goals in nearly 12 periods of work. In game four, though, Crawford allowed five goals in 70 minutes of work. Fortunately, every time he let one in, his teammates scored against thwarting the Boston comeback effort.
A closer analysis of Crawford’s play reveals all 5 goals scored in game four and 10 of 12 in the Final have been surrendered on the glove side. While he brushed aside criticism of his glove-hand proficiency, the Bruins certainly have placed an emphasis on solving Crawford by targeting this area.
Similarly, the once impenetrable Boston netminder, Tuukka Rask, seems to allow a disproportionate amount of goals high to his stick side than in other places. Before game four, 6 of his last 12 goals allowed were above his blocker glove. In game four, three of the four goals including the overtime game-winner were scored high stick side.
The one thing Rask has had trouble with in the playoffs is when teams run traffic in front of his crease, causing him to play further into the paint. Positioning himself further back in the net prevents more of the net to be blocked off from shooters leading to more area to score. And the interference of players standing in front of him certainly shook him off his game. It unnerves a goalie to no end and it certainly impacted Rask’s ability to defend the net.
Regardless of what each team discovers about the other goalie’s weaknesses, you can expect better play from both backstoppers. Each has delivered stellar numbers in goals against, save percentage and wins, 14 for each so far. Game five will be the test of wills and which goaltender will tighten up enough to give his team the chance to win.
Game five is set for tonight at United Center. Face-off is set for 8:00 PM.
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