Kukla's Korner Hockey
from Scott Burnside of ESPN,
For the past two days, with his team facing a 2-1 deficit in the Stanley Cup finals, Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews patiently answered questions about why his Blackhawks are a special breed, how they have developed an innate ability to find a way at the most crucial points of the season.
But as eloquent as the man known as Captain Serious might have been, it would have rung a little hollow had the Blackhawks not responded with a win in Game 4.
And it would have rung a little hollow if Toews himself hadn’t stepped on the ice, delivered a virtuoso performance and dragged the team to such a victory.
But -- and you know how this storyline plays out already, don’t you, having seen it time and again in recent years -- that’s exactly what happened as the Blackhawks hung on for a 2-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday night to even this finals series at two wins apiece. Game 5 is Saturday in Tampa, Florida.
Below, watch Burnside and Pierrel LeBrun recap Game 4...
from Mike Zeisberger of the Toronto Sun,
You didn’t expect this to be easy, did you?
You didn’t think this young, brash Tampa Bay Lightning team was simply going to come into the deafening home barn of the mighty Chicago Blackhawks and win back-to-back games in this best-of-seven 2015 Stanley Cup final, did you?
Maybe you didn’t? But the Jon Cooper-led Lightning certainly did.
And they showed it, too, dominating the hosts in the first period, one in which Chicago registered just two shots on rookie Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy.
But these Hawks always seem to play their best when their backs are against the proverbial wall. And Wednesday night, faced with going down 3-1 in the series with a loss, Chicago did what it does best — pushed back.
With captain Jonathan Toews scoring his first goal of the final, the Hawks rebounded from their poor opening minutes to register a 2-1 victory, evening the series at 2-2 heading into Game 5 Saturday in Tampa.
The win means this now becomes a best-of-three series in the quest for hockey’s Holy Grail. It also guarantees one more tilt at the raucous United Center, with Game 6 going Monday in Chicago.
Catch the game highlights below...
You know the story. Tampa leads the series 2-1 and win tonight in Chicago would give the Lightning a chance to claim the Stanley Cup on Saturday night on their home ice.
Chicago on the other hand wants to guarantee a game 6 back in Chicago next Monday with a win tonight.
As the teams hit the ice for warmups, no Ben Bishop for the Bolts, Andrei Vasilevskiy appears to be the starter.
Feel free to discuss tonight's game and the puck drops just after 8:00pm ET on NBCSN, CBC and TVA.
from Scott Stinson of the National Post,
Two months into these playoffs, the narrative well has just about run dry.
The Triplets are great, Duncan Keith is an alien put on this Earth to play 30 minutes a night without showing fatigue, and (INSERT PLAYER HERE) is frustrated by his lack of scoring but knows he just needs to keep working hard and things will turn and it’s all about whether the team wins anyway. Even the Ben Bishop drama is stuck on repeat. Asked on Wednesday morning whether the goalie would play, Lightning coach Jon Cooper replied: “I think we’re in the same holding pattern as we were 48 hours ago.”
And so, a lot is made about stuff that is happening on the fringes. Wednesday’s big news, such as it is, was that defenceman Kimmo Timonen was drawing into the Chicago lineup for Game 4. There’s some human interest there in that Timonen is a 40-year-old warhorse who overcame a blood clot scare this season, but he’s also replacing Kyle Cumiskey, who played all of seven minutes and 38 seconds in Game 3. (See previous note about Duncan Keith being an alien.) When Timonen last played, on May 25 against Anaheim, he logged eight minutes and six seconds. He’s had games where he has played five minutes. He’s not in the lineup to provide a spark as much as he’s there to try to not get burned as spectacularly as Cumiskey was on Cedric Paquette’s game-winning goal on Monday night.
from Katie Strang of ESPN,
There was Dallas Stars defensemen Darryl Sydor dragging himself across the ice after sustaining a significant knee and ankle injury in the 2000 Stanley Cup finals. There was Boston Bruins forwards Gregory Campbell and Patrice Bergeron, playing through a broken leg and a punctured lung, respectively, in Game 6 of the finals in 2013.
And in this year’s annual installment of hockey players showing either supreme toughness or slight insanity, we had Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop fighting through clear discomfort in Game 3.
At times, the lanky 6-foot-7 netminder seemed to be in distress, laboring in the crease particularly when moving side to side, or hoisting himself back onto his haunches after going down to make a save.
The Stanley Cup, man. It drives people to do some crazy things.
"The burning desire to win, the burning desire to hoist the Stanley Cup," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "It can move mountains."
from Bruce Arthur of the Toronto Star,
There was a spotlight on defenceman Victor Hedman, who delivered spectacular assists on two of Tampa’s three Game 3 goals and was justly lauded — he’s been a primal force in these playoffs, full of confidence, a player with Chris Pronger’s size and a smaller man’s skills. Hedman’s great.
“I don’t know if he’s as smooth as Scott Niedermayer was, but he can move like him,” said Lightning veteran Brenden Morrow. “He’s about four or five inches taller. He’s a monster.”
There was more on Ben Bishop’s ability to play through his mystery injury, which has rendered him into more of a listing stone giant than usual, and Tampa’s ability as a young team to go 8-3 in the formidable rinks of Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, the Bell Centre in Montreal, and the United Center in Chicago.
“It could be a combination of a lot of things,” said Morrow. “But maybe when we get on the road there maybe isn’t as much focus — because we can’t have it — on matchups, we just go out and play. We’re a team that when we have no hesitation to our game, we’re very successful. So that could be part of it. You turn off the thinker a little bit.”
And there were, of course, the struggles of the Blackhawks, who can’t be sure that they’ll have defenceman Johnny Oduya for Game 4, and the article of faith that this is a team that can elevate its game when the games matter more. They are, after all, 30-30 in Games 1-3 under head coach Joel Quenneville, and 40-14 in Games 4-7.
from Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun,
Jonathan Toews is nobody’s fool. He knows what everyone is saying right now. He knows he’s being pointed at.
And intimately, he understands. It’s time. His time. Maybe overtime.
He has no goals in the Stanley Cup Final. His Chicago Blackhawks are wobbling slightly, having lost a game in which they were the better team.
“If anything, there’s definitely more pressure,” said captain Toews, staring straight ahead, always staring straight ahead. It seems to be the only direction he knows. He has lived his hockey life with definitely more pressure.
“I think as you grow older, you learn to deal with it a little bit more and you welcome it at the same time. It’s the challenge we embrace (as players).
“The thing about playing this time of year is, there’s a lot to lose. There’s a lot on the line. That’s why we play the game. That’s what it’s all about.”
from Arpon Basu of NHL.com,
The Lightning are 9-4 in the playoffs when they use seven defensemen, a significantly better mark than 5-5 when Cooper goes with a traditional lineup of 12 forwards and six defensemen.
"It’s interesting because we didn’t do it much during the year in the regular season, even if he’s done it in the past," Lightning center Brian Boyle said. "But it’s worked for us.
"It was kind of weird at first; I didn’t understand why we were doing this. But I’m not smart enough to be a coach."
The first time Cooper did it in the playoffs was in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference First Round against the Detroit Red Wings, and it was out of necessity. Defenseman Jason Garrison was coming back from an upper-body injury that sidelined him for four weeks, and Cooper decided to keep Nikita Nesterov in the lineup as a seventh defenseman as insurance.
It was something just about any coach would do.
The Lightning won 3-2 in double overtime coming off a 3-0 loss in Game 3, beginning a trend Cooper used through the first two rounds.
Four of the next five times Cooper used a lineup with seven defensemen it was following a loss. The Lightning won three of those games, including Game 6 at Detroit to force Game 7; Game 6 against the Montreal Canadiens in the second round to clinch that series; and Game 2 against the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference Final to tie the series 1-1.
from Mark Potash of the Chicago Sun-Times,
The Blackhawks are so used to finishing fast after starting slowly in a playoff series under Joel Quenneville, it’s almost seems like the Tampa Bay Lightning have the bigger chore ahead of them, even with a 2-1 lead in the Stanley Cup Final.
Not quite, of course. The Lightning have been the better team in a closely played series, with the best player in defenseman Victor Hedman. They lead the series and have home-ice advantage. And most importantly, they’re playing like a championship team. The Lightning arguably have played the Hawks’ game as well as any team the Hawks have faced since winning their first Cup in 2010. These aren’t the Ducks — a formidable, worthy opponent that didn’t have that something extra that is needed to beat the Hawks.
Nonetheless, with captain Jonathan Toews setting the all-important tone in a critical moment of the series, the Hawks are resolute in their belief that they control their destiny — that it’s just a matter of staying at it, playing their game and eventually they will impose their will on the youthful, quickly-maturing Lightning.
Toews elucidated that approach clearly Tuesday when asked if there was anything in particular about what the Lightning are doing that the Hawks have to address.
“I don’t think so,” he said.
from Tim Baffoe of CBS Chicago,
Being down 2-1 in the Stanley Cup Final might be reason for prepping your apocalypse shelter with canned goods and a subscription to Guns & Ammo if this were another sport or another team — just imagine the citywide dumping of kerosene on the whole thing and prematurely lighting a match if this were a local baseball team. But these are the Blackhawks, and the Blackhawks are the better team in the Cup Final.
That’s what seven-game series tend to shake out. The inferior team can make it interesting, but when all is said and done, the one with the superior weaponry that the Hawks have will prevail more times than not. This allows a brash idiot like myself who’s on record as having zero worry that the Hawks would win the Cup to stick to his guns and maintain calmness. Heck, I vow to maintain stoicism should they go down 3-1 (please don’t do that, though, Hawks, like seriously don’t).
About Kukla's Korner Hockey
Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.
From breaking news to in-depth stories around the league, KK Hockey is updated with fresh stories all day long and will bring you the latest news as quickly as possible.
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