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The Tampa Bay Lightning’s ability to control the pace and tempo of the Stanley Cup Final has been somewhat of a shock through four games.
The Chicago Blackhawks were the team with the star power. It was the team with a lineup that included multiple-Cup winning champions. And Tampa has been the aggressor in the series that's tied 2-2 heading to Amalie Arena for Saturday's Game 5.
“We've seen it in spurts in some games where we let them get into their rush game, their wide-open puck-moving game,” Hawks captain Jonathan Toews said. “That's when we start to get ourselves into trouble. It's focusing on little details like that, again raising our speed, our play, tenacity, working for the bounces we've been getting.”
Said goaltender Corey Crawford: “They're a good team. They're fast. They're skilled. Sometimes they're going to get momentum and make plays. But for us, you know, we have to keep our confidence which we have done, know that we got to stick to our game.
This is vintage Blackhawks in the Toews era. When they’re not at their best, they just find ways to win. It’s how they beat the Ducks in the Western Conference Final, staying in the series until they took their game to a new level in Game 6, and annihilated Anaheim in the final two contests.
Tampa out-shot the Blackhawks 25-19 in Game 4. Per War-on-Ice, Corsi-wise it was a 61-45 romp by the Lightning. And again, Chicago won.
“You look at the first four games, it's been that close. Maybe the other team is supposed to win that game. But the fact that nobody's had a two-goal lead after four games speaks volumes about what we're talking about here,” Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. “Hey, it's fast, it's quick, it can be unpredictable. It's two good hockey teams going at it.”
The key for Chicago is the ability to adjust and use its superior skill depth. So far against the Lightning, it appears the Blackhawks have ben trying to figure out Tampa’s speed game in order to stabilize their changes for later in the series.
“I think a lot of it has to do with the way these two teams play,” Chicago captain Jonathan Toews said. “I think you see, especially their team, even the way we've kind of changed our lines up front the last few games, all four lines are contributing offensively and defensively.”
Also, if you’re the Blackhawks, you’re tied 2-2 with the Lightning, and Patrick Kane has yet to score a goal this series. If Kane can finally shake loose and provide his offensive dynamic, it could be a game changer for the Blackhawks.
Fortunately for Chicago, they're already in good position to pounce.
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