What started off as a best-of-seven, then shifted to a best-of-five, is now a best-of-three to see who takes home Lord Stanley’s Cup. Each team was able to “steal” a game on the road. The pivotal Game 5 will be Saturday in Tampa Bay at 8 pm.
Each game of the series has been decided by one goal, which has only been done two other times. Chicago finally got a little contribution from star player, Patrick Kane, as he assisted the game-winning goal to Brandon Saad in Game 4. For the Lightning, they are still awaiting for their star player, Steven Stamkos, to record his first goal of the series. It’s not for lack of attempt, as Stamkos has 11 shots on goal. He did not score a goal in the Lightning’s first round series win against the Detroit Red Wings.
Tampa Bay carried the momentum from Game 2 to Game 3 as Ryan Callahan struck first to give the Lightning a 1-0 lead. Chicago would tie the game before the period ended as Brad Richards scored on the power play. Neither team was able to score in the second period. Chicago got the first goal of the third period Saad found the back of the net. That lead would not last long, 13 seconds to be exact, when Tampa Bay quickly tied the game on a goal from Ondrej Palat. Tampa Bay would have the final say in scoring. With under four minutes left, Cedric Paquette scored to take the lead in the game and the series. The biggest question heading into Game 3 was the status of Lightning net minder Ben Bishop, who kept his status mum and eventually played in the game. Bishop stopped 36 of the 38 shots he faced in the 3-2 victory.
The winner of Game 5 when the series is tied goes on to win the Cup 73.7% of the time. Chicago has been in this position before. In 2013, Chicago fell behind in the series 2-1 to the Boston Bruins, and then never lost again, winning the Cup. Chicago will look for similar success. Dating back to 2009, the Blackhawks are 41-14 in Games 4-7. Each of the Blackhawks last two Stanley Cup, they were able to close things out in six games, but both of those games were played on the road. If Chicago is able to take Game 5, they will have the chance to close out the series in Chicago, which is especially good since Saad has scored 12 goals in his last 16 home playoff games.
For Tampa Bay, the biggest question is still the status of Bishop. The team is giving up no information aside from an upper body injury. This is a great game plan due to the fact Chicago doesn’t know which area of the net to attack. Also, they don’t know if it will be Bishop, or 20-year old rookie, Andrei Vasilevskiy, who started in Game 4. One more thing the Lightning could really use; a couple goals from Stamkos. If Tampa Bay can manager to win Game 5 they can go to Chicago to end things in front of a bummed crowd. Even if the Lightning and Blackhawks go to a Game 7, it will be in Tampa Bay.
Buckle up, because the best-of-three is about to heat up with one team taking a pivotal advantage.