WARR’s hockey writer Sidney Brown offers his takes on the Blackhawks throughout their postseason run
The road to another Stanley Cup has been one less traveled for the Chicago Blackhawks but it was necessary.
Coming into this postseason as No. 3 seed out of their division, the Hawks knew they would have to win on the road to set themselves up for success in each series and they’ve mostly been successful, winning early games at Nashville and Anaheim. Traveling to scenic Tampa would be the last time the team would be asked to re-define a series’ home ice advantage and once again, the Hawks were up for the task.
Mixing a little of their other main quality — that of the cardiac kid variety — along with their tough road personality, the Hawks took Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals 2-1 Wednesday night against the Tampa Bay Lightning, using two third period goals to shake up a game that mostly was defined by consistent and body-sacrificing defense from the Lightning.
Tampa’s early clamp on their fellow prolific scorers from Chicago stood as the first surprise of this series. Many experts, including yours truly, expected an explosion of high goal-scoring games throughout the next week plus.
Indeed, the series’ first highlight came from a hot shot by Tampa’s Alex Killorn, who struck 4 minutes and 31 seconds into the first period, giving Tampa Bay an early 1-0 lead. Meanwhile the Hawks felt their way through attacking the Lightning defense and managed to tally seven shots on goal in the opening period but none were particularly scary for Tampa goalie Ben Bishop.
The second period produced more push from the offensive end for the Hawks and they helped Tampa draw two penalties, but neither opportunity yielded goals on return for the Chicago power play. Hawks goalie Corey Crawford kept his team in the game with a series of great saves in keeping the Lightning momentum at bay.
The Lightning held a 18-13 shots on goal advantage thru two periods, but the comeback kids in the white sweaters had something in store for the final period. It was a tight-checking defensive contest through and through Wednesday but there were holes to be found and the Hawks got to the Lightning for the first time after Teuvo Teravainen stripped the puck from J.T. Brown and in open ice netted home his 3rd goal of the playoffs (13:28) to tie the score at 1-1, but the Hawks weren’t done.
Off another turnover, Antoine Vermette scored his 3rd goal of the playoffs (15:26) off an assist by Teravainen, giving the Hawks a 2-1 lead that eventually would be enough for the victory. Special teams weren’t so special for either club — again, a likely by-product of the overall defensive intensity — with the Hawks going 0 for 3 while Tampa Bay was shutout 0 for 2.
While the Lightning finished the game with a 29-21 advantage in the hits department, the Hawks didn’t relent on its attack and took advantage of Tampa Bay’s fatigue late in the game. Bishop was stellar early in net for the Lightning but like so many other goalies before him he found out how tough it is to play a perfect game against the Hawks. On the night, Bishop stopped 19 of 21 shots and posted a save percentage of .905.
On the other side, Crawford shook off his early mishandling of the Killorn strike and stood on his head the rest of the way, even playing a more aggressive style of net-guarding than typical, such as on a breakaway attempt by Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos during the late stages of the game.
Crawford finished with 23 saves and posted a .957 save percentage. Questions about Crawford’s ability to carry a team when it’s struggling offensively should cease for good after a performance like Game 1’s. The Hawks are 10-1 when out-shot by their opponent and 9-2 in one-goal games in this year’s playoffs.
CHI — Duncan Keith and Andrew Shaw with one assist each
CHI — Brent Seabrook with seven hits
TB — Anton Stralman and Valtteri Filppula with one assist each
TB — Brayden Coburn with six hits
CHI — Jonathan Toews winning only 45 percent of his faceoffs
TB — Steven Stamkos and Tyler Johnson combine for 0 points
TB — Steven Stamkos wins 33% of his faceoffs
A Look Ahead To Game 2
The Hawks have won two of their three road opening games, which includes their victory in Game 1 in this series. As we all should know by now, Chicago will not go away from its game plan even while the opposing team ramps up the physical presence. The Lightning started off strong but were fatigued and set back on defense allowing the Hawks to re-establish their game.
In Saturday’s Game 2, the Hawks must set the tone from the start by scoring the first goal and not allowing Tampa Bay to have any hope in this series. The Lightning must capitalize on their scoring chances and play a consistent strong defensive game in which fatigue can’t become a factor.
Will the Hawks steal another game on the road and take a 2-0 series lead or will the Lightning hold serve on home ice? We will find out the answers to these questions on Saturday night in Tampa Bay.
Game 3: Lightning at Blackhawks, Monday (7 p.m., NBCSN)
Game 4: Lightning at Blackhawks, Wednesday, June 10 (7 p.m., NBCSN)
*-Game 5: Blackhawks at Lightning, Saturday, June 13 (7 p.m., NBC)
*-Game 6: Lightning at Blackhawks, Monday, June 15 (7 p.m., NBC)
*-Game 7: Blackhawks at Lightning, Wednesday, June 17 (7 p.m., NBC)
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