By Steve Keating
CHICAGO (Reuters) - After two exhilarating but wildly contrasting games in Boston, the Stanley Cup Finals returns to Chicago on Saturday with no one quite sure what to expect from the Jekyll and Hyde Blackhawks and Bruins.
Defensive brilliance and stellar goaltending in one game, last shot wins in the next, the best-of-seven series has been both breathtakingly entertaining and unpredictable.
"I guess series like this can take some unexpected turns sometimes, and you saw that last night," said Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews, who had a goal in Chicago's 6-5 overtime win on Wednesday that leveled the best-of-seven series at 2-2.
"I'm not going to make any predictions for what happens in the next game, but obviously there's a lot of things we want to carry into this game, Game Five, here."
After a 4-3 triple-overtime win by Chicago in Game One the Finals turned defensive with Boston squeaking out a 2-1 overtime victory in Game Two and a 2-0 shutout win in Game Three.
While there had been scoring chances aplenty, it seemed goals would be hard to come by with Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask and Blackhawks counterpart Corey Crawford doing their part by putting on goaltending clinics.
But on Wednesday the two teams threw off their defensive shackles and turned on the offensive style with Chicago winning a 6-5 overtime shootout to leave fans wondering what is next.
"I guess it's good for the fans to keep watching and keep them guessing for what's next," chuckled Blackhawks Patrick Kane. "But we feel we're in a good position.
"It's a best-of three series, two of them in our building. It's been one of those series that's been pretty bizarre so far as far as overtimes."
Until the Game Four shootout both goaltenders had been at the top of a shrinking list of contenders for the Conn Smythe Trophy given to the most valuable player of the playoffs.
At one end of the rink Rask was rewriting the Boston record book while at the other Crawford was being tipped as Canada's number one netminder for next year's Sochi Olympics.
Coming into Wednesday's contest, Rask had stopped 282 of 290 shots over his last eight games, posting a 6-2 record and three shutouts.
He had not allowed a goal in over 186 minutes of play at TD Garden and his save percentage was slightly edged the record set by Los Angeles Kings Jonathan Quick in last year's Finals.
But it was a very different Rask in net for Game Four, the stoic Finn surrendering six goals in one game for just the second time in his career.
"Well, every goal is stoppable but I don't think there was any weak ones so to speak," said Rask. "Mistakes piled up and I wasn't able to bail our guys out.
"Sometimes you do sometimes you don't. You don't say that I should have had it or I shouldn't had it. It doesn't make any difference."
The one constant throughout the Finals is that every game has been close and entertaining, the first Stanley Cup since 1993 to feature three overtimes and counting.
And while the fans might be enjoying it, that same cannot be said for Boston head coach Claude Julien.
"Do I look like a happy guy?, asked Julien. "I said it last night, you move on.
"It's one loss. We've got two wins, we've got two losses.
"If both teams play their best, you're going to have an exciting game anyways. We could have lost 10-0 or you lose in overtime. A loss is a loss in the playoffs."
(Editing by Frank Pingue)