I always love the first game in any series because while the stakes are high, no matter the outcome, both teams have a legitimate shot at the title. During the first game, I can actually enjoy hockey and life in general. It’s all just downhill from there.
Blackhawks v Lightning
Final Score: Hawks 2 – Bolts 1
Series: Hawks 1 – Bolts 0
The Lightning came bolting out of the gate (see what I did there) in the first period, using their speed to pin the Blackhawks into the defensive zone. It was really quite remarkable, especially since they made two A+ scoring chances for themselves in the first forty seconds or so. Fortunately, Corey “But He’s Only an Average Goalie Am I Right” Crawford was on point all game, making huge saves to keep the Blackhawks in it while they were, I dunno, off getting coffee or something. They certainly weren’t on the ice in that first period.
Meanwhile, Tampa goes up 1 on the most impressive deflection I’ve seen all year. I love the SCF.
Thankfully, Coach Q knows the value of a well-used F-Bomb and likely tore his team a new one during 1st intermission, as in the second, the Blackhawks found their game, owning both possession and scoring chances. Jon Cooper said before the game that to keep up with Chicago, the Lightning would need 12 scoring chances to their 10, but that script got reversed in the 2nd, with the Hawks having 12 chances to the Bolts’ 4.
However, the absolute best thing to happen in the 2nd was this:
Andrew “Aptly Nicknamed” Shaw, everyone.
The second best thing to happen in the second was this picture of Baby Stamkos being shown at intermission.
Anyway, in the 3rd, Tampa did what you should never ever do, especially against fast, skilled teams, and attempted to “turtle” their way to a victory by playing defense only, instead of a full rink game. The Scoring Chances tracker shows this pretty bad change in tactic.
It’s unsurprising then, that Chicago scored to tie the game, with this beautiful shot by Teuvo “Finnish Cold*” Teravainen.
There was also a very scary moment when Versteeg gets tripped into Bishop by Victor Hedman and smacks his head against the goal post (embedded link, because it’s scary). To add insult to injury, this was called for Goalie Interference. Listen, I think Goalie Interference is a good rule to have, but Jesus Christ they need to figure out what it actually means during game play, as it’s been called for the stupidest BS (see embedded link), and not been called for actual blatant interference (see: the Ducks).
Not two minutes after Teuvo ties the game up, Antoine “How Do You Like Them Scratches” Vermette scores (after a slick play from the aforementioned Finn), to put the Hawks up 2-1.
And that’s all she wrote. Or at least, that’s what I assume, since my NBC feed just completely cut out (as it apparently did for several people all on different cable/satellite providers). Either way, Blackhawks won after being completely outplayed for 2 periods. Now the media is going to just run away with the Experience vs Youth narrative they’ve been salivating over since the matchup was decided.
What We Learned: No matter what, Oduya’s got your back.
*I cannot take credit for that nickname, as it was pulled from Hossa’s postgame interview in which he was praising Teuvo’s levelheaded play. Again, Marian Hossa has proven he’s better than me. I am ok with this.