This is a critical game, with the series tied, whoever takes Game 5 could be the eventual Stanley cup winner. The Chicago Blackhawks got a massive win on home ice in Game 4 to even the series at 2-2, so now the pressure will be back on the Tampa Bay Lightning as the action shifts to Florida, as their fans ignite the arena hoping for a blowout win.
All the games have been 1 goal battles, so tonight maybe a long night, as so far there has been no over time nor has one team totally dominated and blown out the other. Four straight one-goal game in the final has not happened since 1968, when the Montreal Canadiens swept St. Louis Blues. Game fives can be risky as the balance can shift permanently in one team’s way. If Tampa loses, then all Chicago has to do is win Game 6 at home to win the cup in front of their mad home crowd. If Tampa wins, then the Blackhawks will have to fight tooth and nail to get into a Game 7, and that will be one of the road which won’t be easy to win.
It’s basically now a best-of-three series, where the winner of Game 5 will clearly have a massive upper hand in its pursuit of Lord Stanley’s Cup. Many experts are claiming that Chicago has the advantage since it raised the chalice twice since 2010, but the Bolts are in no way out of it and have been resourceful throughout their playoff run. It’s truly anyone’s game tonight.
It’s still not sure until game time who will be in net for the Lightning. Will it be rookie goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy backuped by his Latvian teammate who was an Olympic sensation, Kristers Gudlevskis? Only coach Jon Cooper knows and he’s not making a peep til the players hit the ice. Even though their main starter, Ben Bishop did not hit the ice at practice earlier today, in NHL playoff coaching tactics, keeping information close to the chest is a long tested tradition among finalists.
“That’s a hell of a job in my book.” – Coach Jon Cooper
So we cant bet that Bishop won’t be back in net for Game 5, with some meds to dull the pain, because the goal that evened the series in Game 4 Wednesday night, for Chicago was the kind hockey commentators usually call “one Vasilevskiy would love to have back.” It was one Bishop would most likely have had. “Bish is going to play again in this series, no question, but I don’t know which game,” Cooper said, post-game.
But nothing can be held against the rookie, Vasilevskiy, since he kept the Lightning in the game, and usually if you score only one goal – you are not winning the contest. “You tell me coming in he’s only going to give up two goals, that’s a hell of a job in my book,” Cooper said.
Vasilevskiy is the youngest goalie to start a Stanley Cup final game since Montreal rookie now Hall of Famer, Patrick Roy in 1986. He is just the sixth rookie goaltender in NHL history to get his first playoff start in the final. What a start to a career it just might be.
Only Crawford was responsible for denying the ferocious attack the Lightning made over the final 10 minutes of Game 4 which preserved the Blackhawks’ victory, despite being outshot 25-19. “I don’t know how one of those didn’t go in,” said Cooper of their barage. Chicago Coach Joel Quenneville gushed about his netminder after the game: “Outstanding tonight. Call it a goalie win.”
Look for Lightning forwards to be on fire again tonight, but not just in the opening period as they have been for all four Stanley Cup final games. Look for them to keep the spark going and light a fire under Corey Crawford’s feet as they try to fill the net for a decisive win at home.
Lightning captain Steven Stamkos insists that he and his team know what they are up against in an experienced and resilient Blackhawks team. Pregame he told media, “No one said this was going to be easy. This was two great teams battling it out, two very proud teams.”
Who will emerge the victor? The Stanley Cup Final is very evenly matched so it’s hard to tell. The Lightning have 104 shots, 9 goals, 2 wins and the Blackhawks have 107 shots, 9 goals, 2 wins. Chicago has a penchant for winning the big-money games in the playoffs but this year seems to be different than others and the Lightning look hungrier. They need to strike twice to become champions, and we think the sky looks just about ready to open and storm down on the Blackhawks’ head.
Our Pick: Lightning win Game 5 at home