(Photo: bhtv Youtube)
For the first time in almost 80 years, the C-U-P will be in Chicago for the Blackhawks’ taking.
— NHL on NBC (@NHLonNBCSports) June 15, 2015
The Blackhawks haven’t looked dominant against their opponents at any point so far this series–save for a few scoreless minutes at the beginning of Game Five. Fortunately, neither have the Lightning.
In fact, Game Five was more bang-up blooper than hockey highlight reel.
Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford put the team in a dangerous position behind the net when his attempt to play the puck turned into a would-be scoring chance for Nikita Kucherov, who instead tangled with the netminder and collided hard with the goal. (Kucherov left the game but is probable for a Game Six start.)
In the second period, as with the rest of the games in the series, the score would knot up as Valtteri Filppula scored top-shelf.
Antoine Vermette scored just two minutes into the third, knocking in a rebound for the go-ahead game-winning goal.
“There was disappointment — actually a little bit of rage after [losing Game 5],” Lightning Coach Jon Cooper said. “The guys were genuinely ticked off.
“I clearly did not want to lose that game. But walking in there, there’s a difference. You want the team that’s ticked off and angry or you want the team that has their heads buried in their hands? Our group was the angry group. If they’re going to be angry birds [Monday] night, that’s what I want. Usually they’re rock solid when they come out with that mentality.”
So, while Tampa has “angry birds” heading into the United Center facing elimination, the Blackhawks have every reason to seize this chance.
They’re up 3-2 in a series of games that have all been decided by a single goal. It’s anyone’s game. The Lightning have everything to lose and the Blackhawks have, this Monday night Game Six, everything to lose.
“Everyone asked, ‘Would you rather win on the road or at home?’ For us, there was no difference,” Captain Jonathan Toews said. “We have a chance to do that [Monday] night. We want to take advantage of it.
“Obviously there’s a lot of buzz, a lot of excitement, a lot of things going on around the entire event. We’re just going to do our best as individuals to focus on our job as players and focus on the game and nothing more. None of that stuff is really going to help us achieve what we want to achieve. That’s where our heads are at right now.”
For many players on the team, they’re playing for their third championship in six seasons.
For one veteran defenseman–a victim of Patrick Kane‘s 2010 championship-winning goal–this could be a final chance for the win. Kimmo Timonen, who has dealt with blood clots, was traded to the Hawks in hopes of a victory before retirement.
“Every hour you have to say to yourself, ‘Stop it.’ There’s a game, and it’s a big game, and we haven’t won shit yet,” Timonen said.
Chicago knows it’s a big game. The city and team’s fans from all around are supporting the boys in red in whatever ways they know how.
“You see the red jerseys, the support we have behind us,” Sharp said. “The United Center is a big building, we pack it every night, whether it’s a preseason game, playoff game. Can’t wait to get back there, use that energy.”
That may come in handy as the more than 22,000 fans use their voices as a Chicago-style power play. (Noise, coincidentally, has been a complaint of Bishop’s during the series–all the more reason to turn up the sound at the Madhouse on Madison.)
On top of that, to hoist the C-U-P tonight, the Blackhawks are going to have to significantly up their game. They’ll have to figure out how to get the puck through the Lightning’s defense, where players like Hedman have been shutting down usually reliable offense like Kane.
They’ll have to play fast and smart from puck-drop to the final buzzer.
And I’ll be following all of my traditions at home.
Because it’s the Cup.
Game 1: Blackhawks at Lightning (Amalie Arena) – 2-1 Blackhawks
Game 2: Blackhawks at Lightning (Amalie Arena) – 4-3 Lightning
Game 3: Lightning at Blackhawks (United Center) – 3-2 Lightning
Game 4: Lightning at Blackhawks (United Center) – 2-1 Blackhawks
Game 5: Blackhawks at Lightning (Amalie Arena) – 2-1 Blackhawks
Game 6: Lightning at Blackhawks (United Center) – 7:00 p.m. CT Monday, June 15 on NBC, CBC, TVA
*Game 7: Blackhawks at Lightning (Amalie Arena) – 7:00 p.m. CT Wednesday, June 17 on NBC, CBC, TVA
(As always, click the links for video clips or other information. Gifs via Stephanie Vail @myregularface)