Stanley Cup Final, which has been fun thus far, resumes tonight between the Chicago Blackhawks and Tampa Bay Lightning.
By Patrick Comia
So, what should fans expect tonight?
So far, through the 2015 Stanley Cup Final, there’s been consistency in the area of the unexpected. Anticipate that trend to continue tonight in Game 4.
The highly favored Chicago Blackhawks may not be showing panic during their mandatory media appearances, but one has to think that a bit of nervousness that is sitting in the players’ bellies.
After taking Game 1 in Tampa Bay, they have not been able to stop the Lightning from responding. It seems that they always get one-upped in everything they do.
The young players for the Bolts are basically saying to the veterans of the Blackhawks: whatever you can do, I can do better.
However, these are the Blackhawks, a championship caliber team that has won two of the last five Stanley Cup championships. Many would consider them a “modern day dynasty,” if they were to win this season, especially in the salary-cap era.
For the Hawks to accomplish that ridiculous goal of a third title, and even the series, they may need to lean on their stars more and dip into their bag of championship magic. They might be limping a little bit to the finish line, but there’s no time to feel sorry at this point of the season.
The Lightning are playing like freebirds and nothing seems to be stopping them from their pursuit of the Cup.
This is exactly where the Blackhawks have the opportunity to stop them in their tracks and make them think twice about their no nonsense flare.
Here are some keys to the game to look for:
1. Changes to the Blackhawks lineup
Head coach Joel Quenneville is searching for something to work and is in full scramble mode on the back end. Tonight, Kris Versteeg appears to be going back into the lineup for Bryan Bickell, who played his first game of the series on Monday night. He is reported to be on a line with Brad Richards and Patrick Kane.
On defense, Johnny Oduya is “likely” to play tonight, according to his coach.
Oduya left the ice in Game Three after falling from the Lightning’s Nikita Kucherov skate. He appeared to be in pain, favoring his left arm and headed back to the locker room and never returned. Veteran Kimmo Timonen makes his return to the lineup, since Game Five of the Western Conference Final against the Anaheim Ducks. It will be his first appearance in the Stanley Cup Finals, since he was with the Philadelphia Flyers in 2010 losing to the Blackhawks in six games. Kyle Cumiskey will be scratched in favor of Timonen.
2. Corey Crawford needs to take charge of his net
Game Three saw the Blackhawks goaltender make some outstanding saves, but gave up some simple ones too. He gave up three goals on 32 shots from the Lightning. Two of those goals were stoppable, one being the first goal from Ryan Callahan. It was a slap shot that rose above Crawford’s shoulder and went in. However, the shot was taken from the left faceoff circle and appeared the goalie may not have come out of his net far enough to challenge the shot.
A key to Crawford’s success tonight could be playing more aggressive in his net and owning the blue paint around him.
3. Lightning winning without the Stammer
Despite Steven Stamkos not factoring into the scoring the Lightning have put up this series, the team has not faltered. Other players have risen to the occasion to mask the superstar’s difficulties in the scoring department. He has yet to register a point, but it’s not for a lack of trying.
Stamkos has nine shots on goal, and few of these were grade A scoring chances. He just hasn’t had them go into the back of the net.
Despite being held off the scoring sheet, teammates such as Tyler Johnson, Onrej Palat, Nikita Kucherov, Alex Killorn, and Ryan Callahan just to name a few, have more than made up for Stamkos’ struggles.
But don’t count him out when he has the puck. Stamkos is still a threat for the Blackhawks, every time he touches the ice.
Coverage starts at 6:30 pm EST with NHL Live and continues with Game Four at 8:00 pm EST on NBCSN.
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