The Trapper glove is a wide, cavernous thing that looks like someone that was either very bored or very disturbed – or both – stitched together about 5 different styles of baseball gloves.
It is massive, mostly resembling a cross between a first baseman’s glove and a catcher’s mitt, but with a circumference of about 45 inches and a web opening of right around 18 inches - or the size of a pit bull with an enormous mouth. In ice hockey, the goaltender wears the beast on what is termed his “Glove hand” and it gives him his best tool to stop a puck from going into the goal…
…unless your name is Corey Crawford and you play for the Chicago Blackhawks, because he can’t stop a beach ball glove side against the Boston Bruins – and as a result, the Bruins were able to come back from a two goal deficit twice in game 4 of the Stanley Cup Finals on Wednesday night, a wicked Johnny Boychuk rocket tying the game at 5-5 and sending it into overtime.
As much as an advantage as some strange anomaly like that is, the Bruins’ weird ability to morph into whatever they wish to be is what makes them so dangerous against the Blackhawks, and why the series is Boston’s to lose – because the Blackhawks’ have shown that they can’t counter the Bruins once they get into the flow of whatever they choose to be.
And what is even more compelling is that Chicago gave the Bruins everything they had – superior speed, aggressively cutting off passing lanes, defensemen jump starting breaks, pounding the boards and clogging the slot – the Blackhawks landed a huge haymaker in game 4, but the Bruins just smiled and kept coming after them.
The Bruins eventually lost the game, but getting forgotten in the offensive zone assault that the Blackhawks laid on the Bruins in game 4 is the fact that the Bruins were just as effectively playing it Chicago’s way - renewing Boston’s licence as mean counter punchers, but also taking me back to the conversation that I had with the owner of Lisbon Street News just hours before the Stanley Cup Finals began…
…because in addition to claiming that the Blackhawks would last six games only if they got lucky, he also made an ominous prophesy about the Bruins – which showed up front and center on Wednesday night:
The crusty old Pittsburgh Penguins fan knew exactly what he was talking about, and now that the Bear has been poked and otherwise antagonized, the Bruins go into game five on Saturday night with the chance to prove his eerie premonitions correct – a win at the United Center setting up a Monday game six with a chance to end the series in Boston at TD Garden.
Of course, the Blackhawks will have something to say about it – but one has to wonder about their confidence level going into the proverbial pivotal game 5, because this series may be tied, but only after five periods of overtime. Both of Chicago’s wins in this series have been in extra pucks and only after Boston failed to convert on multiple scoring chances…
…but after four games, tied it is – the majority of the time the Bruins hammering the Blackhawks at every opportunity – taking away middle ice, starting in the neutral zone and into the attacking zone where the Bruins would forcefully escort the lightning quick Chicago forwards to the boards where they would pin them and beat on them like they stole something.
The Blackhawks turned the tables in game four to knot the series, their defensemen carrying the puck forward - as far as the neutral zone at times – their aggressiveness opening lanes for the stretch passing game, enabling Chicago’s fast-paced run and shoot offense for the entire contest – and that’s where the Bruins figure to concentrate their efforts in Saturday night’s game.
And it all starts in the crease with Crawford.
It’s simple really, particularly given Crawford’s struggles with the beastly trapper glove, because just like a smart boxer goes after the cut above his foe’s eye, it goes without saying that the Bruins are going to go high, glove side with just about everything, throwing in some low and away blocker side to even things out when Crawford starts favoring to his left.
The Blackhawks are aware of this, of course, which works in the Bruins’ favor as well, and it will take a focused, disciplined effort for Chicago to avoid overworking that zone. The Bruins talented forwards will be looking for Blackhawks sprawling on the ice to block anything going that direction and if they are their normal, patient selves, they should find twine often.
And if they don’t? Well, the Hawks will be facing the ominous prospect of finding themselves pinned to one side by the bigger and more physical Bruins’ defense – and if they try to escort the puck out of their own zone, they will have to go slot to accomplish it – and once committed to mid ice, they’d better have help at the blue line or Crawford will be facing odd man rushes all night.
And even if they do manage to clear the defensive zone, their offensive flow will already be disrupted and Chicago may find themselves having to play Bruins’ hockey, dumping the puck in and trying to win the forecheck, a gargantuan task given the size and quality of the Boston blue liners…
…and just to make sure that the Blackhawks have to work for every inch of ice, Bruins’ coach Claude Julien has toyed with tweaking the Merlot line, including a physical yet untested Carl Soderberg on the line in Friday’s skate, but may opt to ultimately stick with Kaspars Daugavins – either way, Boston’s 4th line will have to see more disruptive time against the Blackhawks top lines for the game plan to succeed….
…and blah, blah, blah, Bruins, Bruins, Bruins – in laymen’s terms, the Bruins are going to attempt to drag the Blackhawks behind the woodshed to give them a proper whupin’, or perhaps even a public flogging, but whichever way it goes, the Bruins know that losing game 4 on Wednesday means that they have to win tonight at the United Center if they intend on finishing them off on Monday at TD Garden in front of the home folks.
Because to let this series come down to a game 7 back in Chicago next week would be akin to the sudden death overtime that three of the four games have seen in the series thus far, and you really don’t want to let the Blackhawks hang around that long…
…because we’ve seen what happens then, and it’s an ambiguous situation that the Bruins would be best to avoid.