CHICAGO – Being a superstar himself, Steven Stamkos was asked regularly why the Chicago Blackhawks’ superstars were struggling to generate offense prior to Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final. But he wasn't facing the same level of scrutiny.
“Winning kind of overrides all of that. Especially at this time of year,” he said. “And you’re right, that comes with the territory. If they were up, questions would be coming my way a lot more.”
And here they come.
The Blackhawks won Game 4 to even the series with points from five of their top six forwards, including a goal from Jonathan Toews, the opposing captain who had been answering the questions that Stamkos will now hear more frequently.
Stamkos has gone six games without a goal, but that comes after a dominant stretch in the Eastern Conference Final that saw him score one in four straight games.
In this series, Stamkos has 11 shots on goal, seven that were blocked and five that missed.
New series, new challenge, and different results.
Stamkos was credited with an assist on Alex Killorn’s goal in Game 4, his first point in the Final. But it was another game in which he failed to tally, and another one-goal game in which a Stamkos goal would have been an enormous difference.
He had his looks in Game 4. One shot deflecting off the stick of Brent Seabrook. Another, point blank with the Lightning goalie pulled, that Corey Crawford blocked.
“I was just trying to take the bottom front of the net away. He was a little too close to get it up. He was really in tight. Just make sure there are no holes underneath,” said Crawford.
Stamkos thought he had one.
“Yeah, I thought it was going in. We had some other great looks that were going to go in too. I mean couple of times guys almost had their hands in the air. That’s the way it goes. You can’t ask for a more eventful minute and a half in a 6-on-5 situation … that’s exactly what we want. Just didn’t go in. it’s a little frustrating when you have that many chances but nothing you can do about it now,” he said.
There were probably a few ‘F-words’ tossed around in the Lightning locker room after the game, but Stamkos heard one in particular from the media: “frustration.”
As in, are you feeling it?
"Nope. Not frustrated,” he said. “I mean, it's going to go, I just stick with it. If I had those two chances over again I'd try to get it away as quick as I could. The first one, their 'D' got a stick on it. Not much I can do. The looks are coming. Our game is right there. They're eventually going to start going in, hopefully in bunches. This one is a tough one. I thought we had it. We had the game right where we felt comfortable and they get one off a faceoff, a little broken down play. We'll regroup here and get back and ready to play in front of our fans."
But are you frustrated, Steven?
“You’re getting the chances. They’re bound to go in. we’ve been down this road before. Got to get some more looks, got to get some more shots, some more touches. We’ll make some adjustments and as a team we want to score more than one goal. Usually you score one it’s going to be a tough night to win. We’ll look to improve in that area.”
And so on.
He’ll have to answer the questions until he breaks through like Toews did in Game 4, scoring a huge goal for his team in a critical game.
His coach, Jon Cooper, anticipates it’ll happen eventually.
“It's really hard to score every single night. Stammer had 43 during the year. Second most in the league. That's scoring one every other game. In this league, the way teams play defense, the exceptional goaltending, to get a goal every other game is a pretty good accomplishment,” he said.
“The great thing about our room is we just look to see what team has the most goals at the end of the game. For us it's all team goals. That's the way we're looking at it.”
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