Dennis Bernstein: ‘Exciting Battle Of Attrition’

If you look at the NBA playoffs, you’ll see that every single home team has held serve except the Toronto Raptors. If you look at the NHL playoffs, however, you’ll see a mad scrum.

Granted, the NBA is a few games behind schedule-wise, but still: It’s hard to predict what’s going to happen in the NHL postseason, even in the first round. Case in point? Yesterday.

The Chicago Blackhawks beat the Nashville Predators, 3-2, in a game that started Tuesday, ended Wednesday and featured 101 minutes of scintillating back-and-forth action. And then, thanks to Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook, it was over. Seabrook split the posts one minute into triple overtime to give the Blackhawks a 3-1 series lead.

Game 5 is Thursday in Nashville at 9:30 p.m. ET, meaning each team will have less than 48 hours to recover from yet another sledgehammer.

“I think there’s an argument for which sport has the best playoffs,” The Fourth Period analyst Dennis Bernstein chuckled on CBS Sports Radio’s After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “This was, I think, one team outlasting the other. You had Duncan Keith play (46) minutes of ice time. Normally he plays 35 minutes. It’s a battle of attrition – players who started the night at 7:15 and they ended at 1:15 in the morning. This is classic. Because every rush, every shot, could end the game. That’s why this sport is so exciting. That’s why the game is so intriguing.

“I was in Chicago last year when Michal Handzus scored in double overtime (against Los Angeles),” Bernstein continued. “I’ve covered the game for 20 years. My heart was beating fast. It just, it gets you going. It gets the adrenaline going because of the speed and nature of the game and because of the last shot wins the game. Sometimes that happens in other sports, but in this one, once you go to overtime in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, that’s what happens – the last shot win the game. And it was just a great, exciting battle of attrition tonight.”

Both goaltenders were masterful in Game 4. Chicago’s Scott Darling saved 50 of 52 shot attempts (96.2 percent), while Nashville’s Pekka Rinne saved 45 of 48 (93.8 percent).

“Scott’s the hotter goalie, and I think he’s probably playing with a little bit more confidence because he’s up 3-1,” Bernstein said. “He came in the first game. Corey Crawford got pulled after the first period (and) shut them out the entire game. (He) didn’t get to start in Game 2. Corey played bad again. They came back to Chicago and gave Darling both starts. He won both games.”

Rinne, meanwhile, played well enough to win Tuesday. It just didn’t work out that way.

“Pekka was great,” Bernstein said. “Some of the stops were absolutely five-star shots. You can’t put this one on Pekka Rinne. Even on the winner, Bryan Bickell screened him. He had no chance on that shot. So sometimes it’s just the bounce of the puck.”

And now the Blackhawks are one win away from the second round.

On the one hand, Darling’s play has been surprising. After all, he’s played for 11 different minor league teams in the last five years. On the other hand, six back-up goalies have won playoff games thus far – and we’re still in the first round.

“It’s a recurring theme in these playoffs,” Bernstein said. “It’s the unheralded, unsung guys like Scott Darling – who I think played 18 games coming into the season in the NHL – that is now rising to the occasion for a team that has won two championships.”

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