Chicago Blackhawks: Best Of 3 For Stanley Cup

By Brian Kinkade

Jun 6, 2015; Tampa, FL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks right wing Patrick Kane (88) shoves Tampa Bay Lightning right wing Nikita Kucherov (86) in the third period in game two of the 2015 Stanley Cup Final at Amalie Arena. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Well, since the first four games of the Stanley Cup Final were a wash, the Chicago Blackhawks and Tampa Bay Lightning will essentially be playing a best of 3 series to see who wins Lord Stanley’s Cup.

With the series tied at 2-2, tonight’s Game Five will be played in Tampa.  Game time is set for 7:00 PM Central Time.  The game can be seen on NBC and can be heard on WGN AM 720.

Game Four wasn’t the Hawks’ best game.  Even on home ice where they got last change.  Part of this is due to inconsistent and sometimes very questionable line choices from Coach Q.  Hopefully, that doesn’t happen tonight because the Hawks were only able to muster up 19 shots on goal in Game Four.  That typically doesn’t cut it.

One thing to take from Game Four, for the Hawks, is that the Penalty Kill appears to be back to it’s mid-season glory.  Let’s not get cocky though.  Tampa’s Power Play isn’t one to give opportunities to.  The Hawks will be playing with fire if they take too many penalties, regardless of how well their PK unit is playing.

The slight lead in shot attempts in the series goes to the Hawks, who have 172 even strength Corsi attempts to Tampa’s 161.  This is the best predictor of future success, so hopefully Game Four was just an anomaly and the Hawks are more than just lucky.  We’ll still take lucky any day though.

As long as Coach Q doesn’t out-think himself and the Hawks limit carelessness, they are in wonderful shape.  This is the final stretch of the series and it’s where the Hawks have truly excelled in the last six seasons.

The Lightning showed that they are willing to completely mix up their style of play.  In Game Four, almost became a neutral-zone trap team that focuses almost solely on defense.  This clearly caught the Hawks off guard and ultimately worked very well.  This was likely due to the goaltending change for the Lightning.

Which Lightning will we see in Game Five?  The wheels on fire offensive Speed Racers?  Or that throwback to the Barry Trotz-era Nashville Predators style?  We shall see.

Steven Stamkos finally put up a point in Game Four with an assist on Alex Killorn’s goal.  It will be interesting to see if this is an opening of the flood gates for Stamkos and his line which also features Valtteri Filppula.

With last change, it will be easier for Bolts’ head coach, Jon Cooper, to either get Stamkos’ line or the triplets line on the ice for a favorable matchup.  What those matchups are exactly isn’t exactly clear.

For the love of all that it is good, can Victor Hedman please have an off game?  The guy is having the best series out of anyone else on the ice, so he’s due for a bad game.  Right?

The big story/question will be in net for the Lightning.  Will it be Ben Bishop?  Or will it be Andrei Vasilevskiy?  Will Tampa’s style of play reflect who’s in net?  Probably.  With Bishop in net(and healthy), the Lightning will likely due their fast-paced offensive style.  With Vasilevskiy in net, the Lightning will likely play their defensive-minded trap style.

We shall see.

I’m not saying it’ll all change tonight, but there’s no way Patrick Kane is held down at such a pedestrian level throughout this entire series and the series is almost over.  Stay tuned.

Other than Hedman, the best player of the series has been Brandon Saad.  Saad has been nothing short of overpowering and heroic this series.

Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa will likely still be skating together regardless of the line blending and this line will require lots of attention from the Lightning.  Hopefully, this allows whatever line Kane is on to really do some damage and get Kane going.

There’s no excuse for Andrew Shaw to ever play center again.  He struggles at taking faceoffs, the team is deep at center, and Shaw was playing the best hockey of his life as a winger in the last two series.  If it’s not broke, don’t try to fix it.

Corey Crawford will of course be back in net for the Hawks.  Crawford has been under the radar(surprise) and fantastic in the last two games.  He stole Game Four for the Hawks and he will likely need to be that good again tonight.

We are in crunch-time of an uber tight Stanley Cup Final.  Sounds fun, but it’s just so damn stressful, but that is the fun part.  You just can’t enjoy it until it’s all over and your team has won.  Hopefully, we all look back on this epic series as a fond memory.

Do it for us, Hawks!

Go Hawks!