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« It's Blackhawks & Lightning for the Stanley Cup Samardzija, White Sox Have Small Margins of Error »

Blackhawks Thu Jun 04 2015

Blackhawks Match Lightning Speed to Take Game 1

Chicago Blackhawks If the first 10 minutes of Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final was any indication as to how the Tampa Bay Lightning were going to go about playing in this series, the Hawks quickly countered and was able to catch up in faceoffs and speed to steal home ice after a 2-1 win at Amalie Arena.

A lot was made, coming into this series, about Tampa's top-scoring threat in Steven Stamkos, as well as the "Triplets Line," consisting of Tyler Johnson, Nikita Kucherov and Ondrej Palat and their creativity and speed on the ice. The talent is undeniable, but it was two players from the Hawks' "80's Night" line, in Teraveinan and Antoine Vermette, who were the difference on offense.

The Lightning brass took a lot of measures to keep Hawks fans from buying tickets and raining on its parade for these first two games of this series, which proved to be a lame move, but somewhat successful. What they couldn't stop was the Hawks reigning the final 20 minutes and stealing home ice in this final battle for Lord Stanley's Cup.

It's a much different look and feel in this series for the Hawks, after a long seven-game battle with the Anaheim Ducks, which saw big bodies and speed nearly choke out Joel Quenneville's team. In that epic battle, the Hawks were prevented from skating freely on open ice as big bodies forced Hawks' skaters along the boards and blocked nearly everything in sight shot towards Frederik Andersen.

Goalie Ben Bishop provides his team with its only legitimate size, standing at 6 feet, 7 inches -- the largest net minder in league history -- which makes for a familiar challenge for the Hawks. Enough stones were thrown to take down the Goliath 6 feet, 5 inches of Nashville's Pekka Rinne in Round 1, and now they'll work to aim high and test Bishop's ability to use his size and speed to recover anything batted down.

The Hawks found themselves starting from behind, as one of the most creative and spectacular goals you'll ever see in your lifetime was scored by Alex Killorn, who channeled his inner Jedi to redirect a shot from Anton Stralman in mid-air and behind his back. When goals like that start going in, you know you're in for a long night.

Instead, the game's number-two star in Corey Crawford, shook it off and stone-walled the Lightning for the remaining 55 minutes. It didn't hurt his line mates in front of him decreased the Lightning's shot attempts as each period passed (10 in the first, eight in the second and a mere five in the third, which included Bishop riding the bench during the game's final 1 minute, 22 seconds).

The shots Crow did face, he proved to be brilliant, especially those from point-blank range. Just as brilliant as Stralman's goal was in the first period, so too was Crawford's save on Ryan Callahan in the third, which could have given the Lightning a 2-0 lead with just over eight minutes to play in regulation.

In another familiar scenario for the Hawks, its power play couldn't find the back of the net, much less find a shot off anyone's stick, going 0-3 with a total of two shots taken (Brent Seabrook and Patrick Kane). However, the Lightning also managed only two shots on its two power plays, which helped keep the Hawks within striking distance.

As mentioned, the two goals on Bishop were both high and with traffic up front. The first one came on his stick side from Teraveinan, with Marcus Kruger blocking up front. The second came off a beautifully-forced turnover from Teraveinan, where the puck trickled right to Vermette at the point, who wristed it home on Bishop's glove side.

With Bishop's size in net, the Hawks will have to continue to screen him as much as possible, especially with his own teammates trying to check them out of the crease. Bishop's height provides a little sight, much like 6-footer at a concert, but strength in numbers in front and high shots will be Bishop's Achilles' heel.

The Hawks look to take a commanding lead Saturday night in Tampa Bay to come home up 2-0 in the series, but look for coach Jon Cooper to adjust in how his team is able to shoot on Crawford. Side-to-side passing up front would be a start, but if the Hawks' backcheck can keep the Lightning from creating anything in front of Crawford, the Hawks will come home with a very comfortable lead.

 
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Herry / June 4, 2015 10:45 AM

Did the Lightning actually believe that playing a trap game was going to protect their lead ? Against the Blackhawks, in the finals ? Ha, ha, ha, ha ! Dumb idiots ! Hawks in 5 !!!!!

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