Bruins vs. Blackhawks: Biggest Surprises from 2013 Stanley Cup Final So Far
Those anticipations are in the process of being met. Three overtime games in the first four have left the two teams tied at 2-2.
While the results have been as anticipated, the way the two teams have gotten there has been somewhat shocking.
Here's a look at the biggest surprises heading into Game 5 of the series.
Quenneville Waits Until Game 4 to Put Toews and Kane Together
Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane led the Chicago Blackhawks to a decisive win over the Los Angeles Kings in Game 5 of their playoff series.
Kane had a hat trick, including the game-winning goal in overtime, while Toews had assists on two of those goals. Toews made the pass that set up Kane's series-winning one-timer.
Kane and Toews have often been paired together in the Blackhawks' most important games, but Chicago head coach Joel Quenneville had them on separate lines for the first three games of the series.
During those games, Kane had one assist while Toews was scoreless, and the Blackhawks trailed 2-1.
In Game 4, Kane and Toews played on the same line along with Bryan Bickell. The Blackhawks came away with a 6-5 overtime victory, and both Kane and Toews scored goals. Kane also added an assist on the overtime goal by Brent Seabrook.
The Blackhawks are far more dangerous when Kane and Toews play side by side. Why did it take Quenneville so long to put them together?
The Bruins Are Scoring Power-Play Goals
This was the series that was supposed to feature two embarrassingly bad power plays.
NBC's NHL analyst Ed Olczyk told me he expected both power plays to struggle mightily throughout the series, repeating the same thing on the air several times. He said he expected perhaps one power-play goal to be scored in the series, and that one man-advantage goal might play a decisive role.
The Boston Bruins have found life on the power play. They have scored four goals in 14 power-play chances, including two in Game 4.
Patrice Bergeron has scored three of his four goals in the series on the power play.
The Blackhawks power play has struggled badly in the series, but it did break through on Patrick Sharp's goal in the third period of Game 4. The Blackhawks have scored one power-play goal in 15 chances.
Corey Crawford Has a Weakness
Corey Crawford is one of the primary reasons the Blackhawks have made it to the Stanley Cup Final.
He was consistent throughout the regular season and has been one of the best goalies in the postseason as evidenced by his 1.86 goals-against average and .931 save percentage. Crawford's ability to make the big save when the Blackhawks have needed it most has clearly trumped his issue of giving up a bad goal from time to time.
However, the Bruins appear to have found a weakness in Crawford's game. They have scored 10 of their 12 goals in the series to Crawford's glove side, and eight of those goals have gone high.
Crawford acknowledged that the Bruins are targeting his glove hand. "Well, 99 percent of their shots are going glove side, so I don’t know what you would say. I can’t start thinking about that,” Crawford told media after the Blackhawks beat the Bruins 6-5 overtime victory in Game 4.
Crawford must correct this issue if he is going to keep the Bruins from scoring crucial goals.
Claude Julien Is Making the Right Coaching Moves
Claude Julien has never gotten the respect he deserves as one of the top coaches in the NHL. Even though he led the Bruins to the 2011 Stanley Cup title, he doesn't have the notoriety of peers like Mike Babcock, Peter Laviolette or even John Tortorella.
That's because Julien is a private man who is not a self-promoter. He has no interest in doing commercials or feature stories. He is simply a coach who wants to get the most out of his team.
Julien is a disciplined leader who believes in defense first, but he is not afraid to tinker with his lineup. He put Jaromir Jagr on a line with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand when Tyler Seguin struggled to score at the start of the playoffs.
He made another adjustment in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final when he put Seguin on a line with Chris Kelly and Daniel Paille. That move allowed the Bruins to win that game, as Kelly scored the tying goal in the second period, and Paille won it in overtime after taking a tape-to-tape pass from Seguin.
Julien may not be done making moves. He is considering inserting Swedish import Carl Soderberg into the lineup in place of Kaspars Daugavins in Game 5, according to Emily Kaplan of the Boston Globe.
Jaromir Jagr and Tyler Seguin Have Not Scored
Jaromir Jagr and Tyler Seguin have both been big contributors for the Boston Bruins in the Stanley Cup Final.
However, those contributions have not come in the goal-scoring category. Jagr has not scored a goal in the postseason even though he has taken 56 shots on goal in the playoffs—the third most of any player on the Bruins.
Jagr has 10 assists and has shown the ability to carry the puck, fend off defenders and make crisp passes.
Crawford has made several brilliant saves on Jagr.
Seguin has scored just one goal in the playoffs, in Game 4 of the conference semifinals against the New York Rangers. However, much like Jagr, he has been a solid contributor with his speed, passing and surprising defensive ability.
Seguin has one goal and six assists in the postseason. He has taken 68 shots on goal, a figure that ranks second on the team to Patrice Bergeron.
If the Bruins are going to take home the Stanley Cup, it seems likely that Jagr or Seguin will have to score a goal or two.
NHL TV Ratings Reach New Heights
Television ratings have long been the bane of the NHL's existence.
Despite having a loyal fanbase that has filled arenas for decades, the NHL has struggled to find a television audience. However, the presence of the Original Six rival between Boston and Chicago in the Stanley Cup Final is changing the perception that hockey is not a good television sport.
Through the first four games of the series, the NHL is averaging 5.356 million viewers per game. That's the most ever for a Stanley Cup Final since viewing data became available in 1994.
Game 4 had a peak audience of 8.192 million, while the average audience for that game was 6.459 million. That's up 120 percent over last year's matchup between the Los Angeles Kings and the New Jersey Devils, according to Pro Hockey Talk.