Stanley Cup Game 4 goes to Blackhawks

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Photo above: The two teams take the ice for Game Four of the 2015 Stanley Cup Final.

United Center-FrontIf you watched Game Three of the Stanley Cup Final, you saw a game that had great drama throughout, with great plays that missed the net or were blocked by the incredible play of the two goalies. This Stanley Cup Final could go down as the most defensive Final in many years.

The Series had moved to the United Center in Chicago, home ice of the Blackhawks for games three and four. If you walk around the building, inside and out, you will feel the deep history of Chicago’s two most celebrated

The Blackhawks scored first in the first period, but the Tampa Bay Lightning came back and tied up the game nine minutes later.

The Michael Jordan statue outside the United Center, draped in a Blackhawks jersey
The Michael Jordan statue outside the United Center, draped in a Blackhawks jersey

If there is one thing about this series we can count on, it’s defense and the great play of their goalies.

Game Three stayed tied until the third period when the Blackhawks swarmed Ben Bishop and the Lightning net.

But Tampa Bay came back seconds later to tie the game once again, and then with less than four minutes left in the game, Cedrick Paquette scored the game winner for Tampa Bay.

Down one game in this series, Chicago needed to regroup and figure out how to stop the Lightning. They did it in Game Two, but could they do it again?

Right before Wednesday’s game Lightning head coach Jon Cooper informed the press his top goalie, Ben Bishop, would not be playing and Andrei Vasilevskiy would get the start. Bishop has been hurting since Game One, and left the game twice in Game Two, the second time not returning. He left the ice in Game Three, but returned. As of yet Bishop’s ailment hasn’t been disclosed.

Hawks head coach Joel Quenneville said they planned to test the young goalie and for Tampa Bay’s head coach and the fans, Andrei passed the test.

Chicago Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford
Chicago Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford

The first period ended without a goal from either team, with both teams missing power play opportunities. It was all defense.

The Second period saw both teams score, first Jonathan Toews put the puck and then five minutes later Alex Killorn scored for the Lightning on a behind-the-net assist from Vallteri Filppula.

Just over six minutes into the third period Brandon Saad put the game-winning goal in the net for Chicago.

If you watched the game and look at the stats it’s obvious Tampa Bay controlled much of this game. They had more shots on the goal, fewer penalty minutes, more hits and fewer giveaways — but the Blackhawks won 18 more face offs in the game.

The big point to take away from this game, for the Tampa Bay Lightning, is that they will need to figure out how to take advantage of the opportunities to score. In the final minutes of the game, when they played with an empty net and an extra stick for scoring, the Lightning peppered Hawks goalie Corey Crawford with attempts, which Crawford blocked.

They missed a lot of chances, but give props to Hawks goalie Corey Crawford for his 24 saves. Vasilevskiy had 17 saves for Tampa Bay.

Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy stretching during Tuesday’s practice.
Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy stretching during Tuesday’s practice.

One other change of note: the Blackhawks scratched winger Bryan Bickell, due to his lack of production in these playoffs. He had been such an important part of the team the previous two seasons it was a surprise not to see him take the ice at all.

Game Five will be back in Tampa, Saturday June 13. The question is: will it be Ben Bishop guarding the Lightning net, or Andrei Vasilevskiy. Jon Cooper doesn’t seem worried about it though. In the post game press conference he said, “It’s comforting for a coach knowing that you got those two guys (Bishop and Vasilevskiy) back there in your net for you.”

(All photos by Claudia Gestro)