Keys for Lightning, Blackhawks in Game 5
Nine months of soggy sweat, of battered bodies and bruised egos, of jubilation, desperation and desolation.
More than 100 games played by each team since training camps opened last September.
And now it comes to this.
A best two-out-of-three for the Stanley Cup.
To date, the 2015 Stanley Cup final has been wonderful theatre featuring 240 minutes of hockey in which neither team has ever led by more than one goal.
And there’s a good chance the best is yet to come as the Tampa Bay Lightning and Chicago Blackhawks are deadlocked at 2-2 entering Game 5 at the Amalie Arena on Saturday night.
Here’s a look at what both teams will have to do in order to be successful.
KEYS FOR TAMPA BAY IN GAME 5
1. DOMINANT “D”: The way the Lightning played team defence in the first period of Game 4, you or I could have been between the pipes and kept Tampa Bay in the game. With Ben Bishop on the shelf, backup Andrei Vasilevskiy faced just two shots in the opening 20 minutes as the Lightning completely shut down the hosts. Being able to consistently smother the Hawks like that will be a difficult task to be sure, but Jon Cooper’s well-coached team certainly has the potential to do it, as shown in the early stages Wednesday.
2, MATCH GAME 2015: With the series returning to Tampa, Cooper once again holds the advantage of having the final change. Given the edge that goes with holding that trump card, expect to see the blueline duo of Victor Hedman and Anton Stralman to own the assignment of shutting down Chicago’s big guns of Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, who have combined for just one goal in the series. Hawks coach Joel Quenneville split up his dynamic duo in Games 3 and 4, so it will be interesting to see if he keeps them apart or reunites them. Either way, Cooper holds the hammer in Game 5 when it comes to matchups.
3. THE PUCK STOPS HERE: Whether it’s been the healing Ben Bishop or the green Andrei Vasilevskiy, the Lightning has, for the most part, received superior goaltending than the Hawks in this series. That trend must continue.
KEYS FOR CHICAGO IN GAME 5
1. MORE GLORY FOR COREY?: Will the real Corey Crawford please stand up? Just when you want to plug your nose at some of the short side stinkers that have squeezed through him, he stands tall in Game 4, especially in the chaos of the final minute when he preserved Chicago’s 2-1 win. If Crawford can somehow build on that momentum and show the form that helped the Hawks win the 2013 Cup, Chicago will receive a real boost.
2. REST IS BEST: The Hawks appeared the more fatigued team in Game 4, unable to feed off the energy of their leather-lunged fans in the early going against the younger, fresh-legged Lightning. In that regard, between the two teams, the fact that there are two off days between Game 4 Wednesday and Game 5 Saturday probably benefits the Hawks more, giving them time to recharge their batteries. Banged-up defenceman Johnny Oduya, who spent the latter part of Game 4 appearing as if he could only clutch his stick with one hand, certainly could use the extra day to heal, although, in fairness, so too could Lightning goalie Ben Bishop.
3. KANE MUST BE ABLE: Patrick Kane has zero goals in this Stanley Cup final. That can’t continue. Enough said.
Who will win Game 5 to take a 3-2 series lead?