Bruins vs. Blackhawks: Grading Each Superstar in 2013 Stanley Cup Final
Game 4 of the 2013 Stanley Cup Final was thrilling, and the Chicago Blackhawks are heading back to the Windy City with a tied series after downing the Boston Bruins in a wild OT game.
With four games out of the way, there's been plenty of evidence with which to judge the star players on each team. Who is bringing it on every shift and producing? And who is leaving much to be desired?
Here are the grades for 10 of the biggest superstars playing in the Stanley Cup Final.
Forgive fans of the Chicago Blackhawks if they thought that Patrick Kane was going to dominate in the Stanley Cup Final. All signs pointed to that happening after he finally broke through in the Western Conference Final, shaking and baking his way to a hat trick (including the OT game-winner) in Game 5 against the Los Angeles Kings.
The wheels have fallen off that bandwagon, though. The Boston Bruins have kept Kane quietly to the perimeter for most of the series.
This is a player who is only as effective as the time and space that he has, and the likes of Zdeno Chara have given him almost none of it through four games. He managed to break through for a goal in Game 4, but it's tough to look at that tally and forget the rest of his series so far.
The 'Hawks count on Kane for production. He didn't provide it through the first three games, so for now he doesn't deserve better than this.
Stanley Cup Final Grade: D+
Zdeno Chara has always been one of the eight wonders of the hockey world. He's showing everyone why in this Stanley Cup Final.
The big man has been charged with silencing some of the most prolific offensive powers in the league today. And Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews had been mostly non-factors before both scoring in Game 4.
He's out there against one (or both) of them for every shift, and he always seems to come up with the big stops when they are needed most.
Chara has been a tower of strength for the Bruins. When the game gets too quick around them, they fall back on their defensive structure. Chara is the heart and soul of that structure, and he's been nearly perfect.
For winning almost every defensive battle against some seriously talented players, Chara is at the head of the class.
Stanley Cup Final Grade: A
If you're looking for the embodiment of the offensive struggles the Chicago Blackhawks had against the Boston Bruins prior to Game 4, you need look no further. The man they call Captain Serious is your guy.
Jonathan Toews has been shut down almost entirely by the B's and their stifling defense, and it's written all over his face after every shift at this point. His shoulders sag a bit with each missed opportunity—and there haven't been many due to Toews' inability to get any space.
Like Patrick Kane, the captain of the 'Hawks is at his best when he's given time to make plays. He hasn't had either of these things in this final, and (more importantly) he hasn't been able to find other ways to be effective.
For not figuring a way to blitz the barricade that is Boston's defense, it's impossible to pass Toews. It's true that he scored a goal in Game 4, but that was his first in 10 games. Not enough from the captain of the 'Hawks.
Game 4 gives him something to build off of, at least.
Stanley Cup Final Grade: D-
Tuukka Rask is in the zone. Totally and completely. He doesn't even know what day it is.
To this point he's been lights out.
At least he was—until an out-of-control second period of Game 4. The valedictorian is allowed a bad test occasionally though, right?
He's getting plenty of help from Boston and its defensive structure, but when the pucks are getting to Rask, he's typically been there to make the saves and swallow up rebounds.
Rask has performed well enough in this final to make B's fans forget all about Tim Thomas—quite the accomplishment when you consider how epic Timmy T was in 2011 when Boston last won the Cup.
For stonewalling the 'Hawks for three out of four games, Rask gets a pass for his subpar Game 4 outing.
Stanley Cup Final Grade: B+
Coaches in the NHL are incredibly well prepared these days. Plenty of video is available on every hockey player that has been in the league for a while—especially goaltenders.
The Boston Bruins seem to have found the glaring weakness of Corey Crawford, and it's costing the Chicago Blackhawks dearly at this point. Nearly every goal the Boston Bruins have scored found its way to the back of the net while sailing over Crawford's outstretched and ineffective glove hand.
Whether it's a real weakness or something that is just in Crawford's mind is irrelevant. The fact of the matter is his offense finally showed up for Game 4, and he nearly gave the game away by allowing a few tough but stoppable (gloveside) goals.
He's going to have to tidy that up the rest of the way.
Stanley Cup Final Grade: C+
Through the first three rounds of action, there wasn't a better forward in the playoffs than David Krejci. He dominated up through the Eastern Conference Final, where he outplayed the likes of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin through four games.
Since hitting the Stanley Cup Final, Krejci has cooled off considerably. The depth players of the Boston Bruins have done a lot of heavy lifting through the first four games of the final, while Krejci is still hunting for his first goal of the series.
He's goalless, and if Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews are held to a high standard, then Krejci must be as well.
Boston is looking for more out of Krejci, and despite two assists in Game 1, he's gone through long stretches without making any noticeable plays. We know he's capable of much more in the offensive end, and until he delivers it's hard to give Krejci anything more than this.
Stanley Cup Final Grade: D
Duncan Keith is as important on offense as he is on defense for the Chicago Blackhawks. The top offensive players for the 'Hawks look to Keith for long stretch passes and often are on the receiving end of crisp, clean takes.
As a team, the 'Hawks have struggled to hit those passes in this series, and as a result Keith has looked ineffective with his transition game. The fact that it took Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane four games to find the back of the net doesn't help matters, nor does a mostly defunct power play.
He's been good enough in his own zone, but the Bruins are still scoring too many goals and getting far too many quality chances on Corey Crawford.
While he hasn't been an offensive powerhouse, Keith hasn't been particularly suspect in his own zone either. For most defenders that would equate to a solid series, but not for a guy that is paid to be a difference-maker in all three zones.
Stanley Cup Final Grade: C+
Patrice Bergeron has been money through the Stanley Cup Final thus far. On both sides of the puck, no one has been more effective in this series than Bergeron.
When the Boston Bruins have needed a big goal, it's been Bergeron supplying. When the defense is in a jam and needs some help from a forward, it's usually No. 37 hustling back into the defensive zone in time to break up a play.
His presence looms large for the Bruins, who at this point must feel like anything is possible when Bergeron is out on the ice. He's also been nearly unstoppable in the faceoff circle. Puck Daddy provides some commentary on Bergeron's abilities in the circle here.
Overall, he's been the most outstanding forward in this series, and for that Bergeron receives the best grade possible.
After all, what more could the guy be doing out there?
Stanley Cup Final Grade: A+
Marian Hossa hasn't found the back of the net in the Stanley Cup Final, but it's not for lack of trying.
He had 17 shots through the first two games of the series before sitting out Game 3 due to injury. He was especially outstanding in Game 2, when he took 10 shots and was probably the best forward on the ice through long stretches of play for the Chicago Blackhawks.
Shots don't matter for much if they aren't going in, though, and so far Hossa has a goose egg in the scoring column. Patrick Sharp has scored twice, while Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews finally found the back of the net in Game 4.
It's time for Hossa to step up his offensive game and shoot one past Tuukka Rask.
Until he does so, it's impossible to give him a better grade than Kane or Toews. He posted another four shots in Game 4, but until he finds the back of the net, he's just another superstar that's having trouble producing in this series.
Stanley Cup Final Grade: D
Milan Lucic has been the prototypical bruising power forward in the Stanley Cup Final. He scored two goals and had an assist in a losing effort in Game 1 and has managed to make a big impact on the rest of the games with his physicality.
He's tangled with Jonathan Toews a few times and has done his best to get under the skin of the best players for the Chicago Blackhawks.
That's the mark of an outstanding player in the playoffs: Even when he isn't scoring, he is making a difference in some fashion.
For being a difference-maker, Lucic gets an above-average grade.
Stanley Cup Final Grade: B+