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Hawks becoming escape artists

Published: Friday, June 21, 2013 11:46 p.m. CDT
Caption
(AP)
Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook celebrates his game-winning goal against the Boston Bruins with Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford during the first overtime period in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Finals on Wednesday in Boston. Chicago won 6-5.

BOSTON – Four games. Five overtimes. Seventeen periods. Twenty-three goals. Three hundred and 14 minutes and 47 seconds.

Crazy.

All of it, crazy.

And the Blackhawks’ postseason roller coaster has plenty of track remaining.

Some how, some way, the Hawks managed to escape TD Garden with a 6-5 overtime win Wednesday in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Finals. Brent Seabrook’s game-winner at 9:51 of overtime evened the series at 2, with Game 5 set for Saturday in Chicago.

“I don’t think it matters where we play,” Hawks forward Patrick Sharp said before boarding the team’s late-night return flight. “It’s going to be an even series.”

Except it can’t be.

Someone will have to win. Someone will have to lose.

Any ideas as to which someone will beat the other someone?

Who knows? Flip a puck.

If Game 3 resembled a defensive chess match, then Game 4 resembled something like Skee-Ball at the pizza place. The teams combined for two goals in the first period, five goals in the second period and three goals in the third period before Seabrook fired a 59-foot shot past Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask on the Hawks’ 47th shot of the game.

At one point late in the second period, the goal horn belched in baritone to signal that the Bruins had tied the game. Except they hadn’t. The puck was in play.

Forgive the horn jockey. Any one of us could have committed the same mistake. After all, it was difficult to discern actual goals from imagined goals during the frenzied – and, admit it, kind of fun – action between the teams.

Perhaps “fun” is an overstatement. Let’s go with “entertaining.”

“I hope it was entertaining for you guys,” Hawks defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson said. “Personally, I didn’t really like that at all, as a defenseman. Five goals against is too much for me, personally. I was on the ice for three of them.

“As long as we win, I’ll be minus-3 every single game. I’m just happy we won the game.”

You and a few million Hawks fans.

The Hawks’ offense was stellar – welcome to the scoresheet, Jonathan Toews – but the team’s typically stout defense was heinous. Then again, so was Boston’s.

Twice, the Hawks led by two goals. Twice, the Bruins clawed back.

Which brings us to Corey Crawford and whether he can return to form in Game 5.

The Hawks’ goaltender had been so reliable in the playoffs, but he unraveled in Game 4, much to the delight of 17,565 fans who jeered him with each fresh failure. In a town that needed two decades to forgive Bill Buckner for grievous glove work, Crawford almost fully neglected the piece of leather in his left hand.

He was allowed to use the glove if he so desired. At least, I thought so.

A dip into the NHL rulebook – Rule 11.6: “Catching Glove” – shed some insight.

“A maximum perimeter of 45 inches is permitted,” the rulebook said. “The wrist cuff must be 4 inches in width. The cuff of the glove is considered to be the portion of the glove protecting the wrist from the point where the thumb joint meets the wrist.”

There must be a loophole. Everything has a loophole.

Perhaps Crawford could have ditched his glove for another piece of equipment that complied with the NHL’s measurements. What if he gripped his stick in one hand and held a tennis racket in the other? Or an oven mitt? Or a foam finger?

Anything. Anything at all.

Crawford swatted away doubts much better than he swatted away pucks.

“Just stick with it, stick with it,” Crawford said. “No matter what happens, there will be nights where it’s high-scoring. We all stuck with it.”

The strategy worked, eventually.

The Hawks scored one more goal than the Bruins.

The Stanley Cup Finals have been reduced to a best-of-three series.

Crazy.

All of it, crazy.

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