By: Luke Johns
Before this series began, it looked like it had all the makings of a seven-game series. Well, four games in, it still has seven games written all over it. For the first time since 1968, each of the first four games have been decided by one goal. In fact, neither team has had larger than a one goal lead this series either.
A quick synopsis of the series thus far: Chicago took games one and four while Tampa Bay took games two and three. Tampa Bay had a late lead in games one, two and three and went into a “sit-back” mode and relied on the 1-4 forecheck to keep the puck out of the net. Ironically, Chicago found a way to beat it in game one but not two and three. There was a slightly different scenario in game four, with Chicago grabbing the lead late and not squandering it.
One of the biggest stories thus far is that Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop suffered an apparent injury in game two. He played in game three despite obvious signs of pain and was scratched before game four. The team has still not released what he injured or how. It has the makings of an iconic story if somehow Tampa Bay could win the series despite Bishop’s injury. Head Coach Jon Cooper said Bishop will play again in the series, he’s just not saying which one.
Tampa Bay isn’t the only one dealing with injuries. Chicago defenseman Johnny Oduya is playing through an upper-body injury and he looks nowhere near 100 percent. Most of the time he attempts to play the puck with just one hand on the stick. Coming into the series Chicago was already light in defensemen. Oduya will continue to play, but the question becomes how effectively.
Entering game four, Chicago only led for 6:19 of the series. After leading for most of the third period, that number is up to 18:45.
Victor Hedman has been unreal through the first four games. He’s made two incredible passes leading to goals in game three and has shut down Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. Hedman wasn’t even on the ice when Toews scored in game four. Hedman has also registered two assists in each game Tampa Bay has won. Keep in the back of your mind these next few games that if Tampa Bay wins the whole thing, we can say that this final is Hedman’s coming out party, similar to how his defensive counterpart, Duncan Keith, had his in the 2010 Stanley Cup Final.
Going forward, the player to keep an eye on is Steven Stamkos. He only has one point in this Stanley Cup Final. Stamkos also had two huge chances late in game four to tie the game but was unable to convert either one. I’m not saying he’s been a liability, but we’re all waiting for him to take off.
Before the series I predicted Blackhawks in 7. So far, so good.