The Stanley Cup Final gets back to business tonight between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Chicago Blackhawks. Who’s in goal for TB?
By Patrick Comia
It’s back to business for the NHL tonight, as the Stanley Cup Final resumes at 8:00 pm EST on NBCSN.
The series is tied 2-2, with Game 5 being played at Amalie Arena in Tampa Bay, FL. Both teams split each other’s home games at one game a piece, through the first four games.
With the series up in the air, it’s anybody’s game. The two days in between Game 4 on Wednesday night and tonight should benefit both teams.
As they always say at the Kentucky Derby, “and down the stretch they come!”
Here are three key factors to look for tonight:
1. Jon Cooper’s Book of Secrets
What has made this Final an interesting series has been goalie situation for the Lightning.
Head Coach Jon Cooper has been mum on his starting goalies since last game. The issue has been center of attention for the team, since starting netminder Ben Bishop looked to be injured in Game Two, a game in which he had to be relieved twice.
An injury became more apparent in Game Three despite making 36 saves in a 3-2 win, giving the Lightning a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.
After uncertainty as to his status for Game Four (thanks to Jon Cooper), the starting goalie was not known till before puck drop. The rookie Andrei Vasilevskiy, who won Game Two in a relief appearance, led his team onto the ice, surprising everyone. He started his first playoff game last game.
Entering tonight’s game, the same question is being asked: who is the Lightning’s starting goalie? Well, don’t look to Jon Cooper for any answers. We just have to wait and see come puck drop.
2. Lightning Power Play contained
Entering the Finals, the Lightning’s deadliest weapon was their power play. Through their first three rounds, they were 16-72 (22.2 percent) with the man-advantage. However against the Blackhawks, the Lightning has gone 1-11 (.09 percent), registering 12 shots on goal through four games.
“They’ve got a good PK and they pack it in pretty tight. Guys are willing to block shots,” Stamkos said Thursday. “We have to find a way to get more shots to the net. We know we haven’t scored on the power play at the clip that we wanted to during this Final. Sometimes you’re pressing, you’re not confident in taking a shot. We’re trying to make that extra pass, trying to get a nice goal.“
The Lightning will try to simplify their power play opportunities, as they defend their home ice tonight.
3. Toews / Sharp / Hossa line
Last game, Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville shuffled his lines and put together three of Chicago’s big stars, in hopes of sparking some offense.
His wish was granted.
After just having just one point and goalless through three games of the Finals, Jonathan Toews broke that trend by scoring the first goal for the Blackhawks last game. Patrick Sharp got the primary assist on the goal by Toews, giving him two points so far. Sharp has remained goalless, but had two great scoring chances; including one where he split the defense and had his shot was stopped by Vasilevskiy. The goal started from Marian Hossa’s shot from the point. He got the other assist, giving him four points, along with a three-game point streak.