Reporting Steve Silverman
By Steve Silverman-
(CBS) It really was just one of those games.
The Blackhawks worked harder and were more efficient in Game 4 than they had been in Game 3 and they exploited a number of Bruins mistakes that Boston is not likely to make the next time out.
But there’s only one thing that happened in Game 4 that the Blackhawks and Joel Quenneville should feel good about heading into the final three games – quite likely – of this series. That’s the return of Jonathan Toews to the scoring column.
The other things, such as a poor game by Zdeno Chara and a less-than-stellar effort by Tuukka Rask in the Boston net, where just happenstance. The Blackhawks haven’t figured anything out regarding those two players that they didn’t know earlier.
Chara is a monster who will crush opponents in front of the net and take the puck away when he initiates contact. However, if he’s standing still and the Blackhawks hit him, he will lose leverage and give away the puck.
Rask is going to stop nearly everything he can see, so you have to get traffic in front of him. That’s not a secret when it comes to beating top goalies. Whether it’s Rask, Jonathan Quick, Henrik Lundqvist, Patrick Roy or Ken Dryden, the best goalies can’t stop what they can’t see.
But going forward, Toews’ sweet-as-sugar deflection will carry over and that’s what the Blackhawks needed. Not only is he the Blackhawks’ best player, he is one of the two most honest players in the final.
An honest player is one who sells out every time he is on the ice. He honestly earns every dollar he is being paid because he gives it all on the defensive end and in the face-off circle as well as when he has a chance to score a goal.
Patrice Bergeron of the Bruins is the only other player who compares with Toews when it comes to honesty.
Going into this series, they were viewed as near equals. Both are stellar defensive players, as Toews edged out Bergeron (and Detroit’s Pavel Datsyuk) for the Selke Award that goes to the league’s top defensive forward.
Bergeron has the edge on Toews in the face-off circle because he is simply the best in the league. Bergeron is winning 62.2 percent of his draws in the postseason, while Toews is at a more pedestrian 52.2 percent.
Toews should have the edge on Bergeron in offensive production. That has not been the case in this year’s postseason. Bergeron has nine goals and six assists and has turned out to be the Bruins’ Mr. Clutch.
Bergeron scored the tying and winning goals in the seventh-game classic against the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round, he scored a double-overtime winner against the Pittsburgh Penguins and he has scored four goals against the Blackhawks.
But Toews has joined the battle with his deflection of Michal Rozsival’s shot in the second period. A huge weight is off his shoulders and has been placed on the Bruins. They now have to contend with the real Jonathan Toews, who has scored two goals and eight assists in this postseason.
This series is many things, but the battle between Toews and Bergeron will come to the forefront from this point forward. No matter what this year’s numbers say, those two are hockey twins.
One of the two will emerge in the final three games and give his team the best chance to raise the Stanley Cup.
Steve Silverman is an award-winning writer, covering sports since 1980. Silverman was with Pro Football Weekly for 10 years and his byline has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Playboy, NFL.com and The Sporting News. He is the author of four books, including Who’s Better, Who’s Best in Football — The Top 60 Players of All-Time. Follow him on Twitter (@profootballboy) and read more of his CBS Chicago columns here.