The Chicago Blackhawks won their second of three overtime games thus far in the Stanley Cup Final with a 6-5 victory over the Boston Bruins to knot the series for the NHL's ultimate prize at two games apiece.
Stealing a game in the TD Garden was no small task, as ESPN Stats & Info highlighted after Chicago's clutch victory helped avoid a 3-1 series deficit:
Blackhawks: snap Bruins 7-game home winning streak— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) June 20, 2013
Saturday marks a critical juncture in the battle for Lord Stanley's Cup, as the losing club will be pushed to the brink of elimination and the ultimate disappointment after a grueling road to the cusp of hockey immortality.
With three possible games left between the two teams that won the Cup before the Los Angeles Kings' stunning run last year, it's feasible that this back-and-forth series could go the distance. Below are some predictions as to how the remainder of the finals will play out.
Game 5: Blackhawks 3, Bruins 2
Another thriller will rock the United Center in Chicago on Saturday night, but the home team will emerge victorious.
Two consecutive losses in which the Blackhawks scored just one goal total was enough to wake up the sleeping giant that is their typically juggernaut offense. They blitzed the recently unbeatable hosting Bruins with six goals—including one, finally, by Jonathan Toews.
It's been an unfruitful postseason for the team captain, as he finally got off a 10-game schneid to put Chicago ahead 2-1 in the second period.
In order for the Blackhawks to win, Toews has to step up his level of play, and if that breakthrough is any indication, he looks to be on his way toward doing that. After all, it's not as though he hasn't gotten it done on this stage before.
This is a do-or-die scenario for the NHL's Presidents' Trophy-winning team, and Joel Quenneville's bunch should take care of business.
Game 6: Bruins 4, Blackhawks 2
This Boston team doesn't lay down easily, and it will give the prohibitive favorite Blackhawks all they can handle.
A certain Bruins standout has also cooled down recently in David Krejci. In the opening series against the Toronto Maple Leafs, he put up a whopping 13 points in just seven games.
That's been enough to allow him to still lead everyone in the playoffs in points, and Boston will be counting on him to pull through in the clutch—something he's been able to do in these playoffs. If not for his line providing a spark in scoring the first of three third-period goals in Game 7 of the Toronto series, the Bruins wouldn't have gotten nearly this far.
However, Krejci was kept off the scoring sheet for consecutive games for the first time all postseason until Game 4, when he assisted on the goal that tied things up at five in the third period.
ESPN's Jeremy Lundblad documented the historical significance of Krejci's overall amazing play, and it turns out the the center holds some elite company, to say the least:
David Krejci with his 24th point this postseason - most by a Bruins player since Ray Bourque in 1991— Jeremy Lundblad (@JLundbladESPN) June 20, 2013
Combine that with the strong form of fellow Conn Smythe Trophy contender Patrice Bergeron, who scored two of the team's five goals on Wednesday evening, and it's quite a tandem with which Boston can attack.
Game 7: Blackhawks 2, Bruins 1 (OT)
The goals-against average for Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford will have maintained at three per contest to this point, but he will reemerge with his best performance of the finals.
Crawford still holds a 1.88 goals-against average and .931 save percentage entering Saturday's Game 5. He dismissed any assertions that he's rattled by his recent patch of rough play, specifically his glove side, telling USA Today's Kevin Allen:
Last series, there was talk about my blocker...Both sides are bad, I guess. You get in trouble if you start thinking they are going to shoot glove high. Às a goalie, you don´t want to think, you want to read and react.
Plus, it's not as though Crawford got any substantial offensive support in Game 2 or 3. With that, the attention shifts to defenseman Duncan Keith. He is usually a solid facilitator on offense despite his position, yet he just notched his first point of the finals in Game 4.
Who do you think will win the Stanley Cup?
Look for Keith to up his level of play and for Chicago's general superiority to shine through.
Of course, that's not to say Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask won't come to play. Essentially, he's been standing on his head, with a phenomenal 1.83 goals-against average in the playoffs thus far.
This should be a deadlocked game throughout, but the home team will pull it out to send the Cup back to the Windy City.