We’re a couple of games into the 2015 Stanley Cup already, with Game 3 starting this evening. As of right now, the Chicago Blackhawks and Tampa Bay Lightning are tied with one game each. Both teams are bringing some fire to the ice, and it’s a safe bet that they’re only going to be playing harder now that things are tied up so closely.
Since we’re already two games in, we’re not going to bother with an actual preview. What we are going to do, however, is give you a brief overview of how things have gone down so far and what you might be able to expect from each team going forward. There have already been quite a few highlights in just the first two games of the series alone, and we wouldn’t be a bit surprised if each team continues to deliver during the games to come.
Game 1 Highlights
The first game of the 2015 Stanley Cup finals took place this past Wednesday, and the Blackhawks were leading the Lightning in a 2-1 win by the time all was said and done. But while it may have been a low-scoring game (nothing new for the sport), it certainly wasn’t a boring one. In fact, some of the seeds planted in this game had led some sports writers to suggest that Chicago should be concerned going into the second game of the series.
The source of the Blackhawks’ concern in this regard would be the fact that Tampa Bay took control of the game fast and scored early. Center Alex Killorn scored Tampa Bay’s only goal in the game, having also scored the winning goal against the New York Rangers in the seventh game that brought the Lightning to the finals to begin with. After that, however, they mostly held back. They managed to mostly control the puck throughout the first couple of periods, but their offense slacked immensely.
Chicago had almost the opposite experience as Tampa Bay. They didn’t have much to do with the puck for a good half hour of play time. But they scored both of their goals in just a couple of minutes, allowing them to take control of the scoreboard and ultimately with the game. If Tampa Bay hadn’t more or less given up control, then odds are Chicago would not have won this game. They had more than twenty shot attempts in the game, but a good number of those were in the third period, meaning that their overall success rate was higher in the third period than in the rest of the game at large. So Tampa Bay wasn’t just slacking on offense, but on defense as well.
Tampa Bay actually had more shot attempts in the game, but it was when they started letting up on their offense that Chicago found themselves with time to strike back. The goals they scored were the fruits of labors by centers Teuvo Teravainen and Antoine Vermette. As you can tell from the above links, neither one of them is particularly veteran to the team, but they are both beginning to establish themselves as assets to the Blackhawks. If the Blackhawks manage to win the 2015 Stanley Cup, Teravainen and Vermette are almost definitely going to have something to do with it.
Believe it or not, however, one of the most interesting highlights to come out of the first game of the 2015 Stanley Cup finals had nothing to do with the scoreboard. This took place when Victor Hedman, Swedish defenseman for the Tampa Bay Lightning, found himself against the glass with Andrew Shaw, forward for the Chicago Blackhawks. The situation escalated quickly, with referees skating in to pull the two off of one another. At the end of it, spectators could see Hedman lifting his jersey while exclaiming that Shaw had bitten him.
To be fair, no one is actually 100% sure whether or not Shaw actually bit Hedman during their scuffle. If he did, then the NHL must not have seen it as a big problem, since no penalty was issued. The instance was reported on a bit over the next few days, but Hedman eventually decided to stop commenting on it. It would appear that whether his claim was truthful or not, he’d like to put it behind him and focus on the game. Not surprisingly, Shaw is about done discussing it as well.
The instance was big enough that ESPN was prompted to publish a history on biting in the NHL. And if you’re surprised to hear that there’s enough information on that one particular issue to warrant publishing an actual history on it, then congratulations on thinking like a rational human being. But apparently, it happens quite a bit, and almost always during the playoffs. Does this mean that there may be more accusations of biting during the 2015 Stanley Cup finals? We hope not. Although it would certainly make for some entertaining journalism.
Game 2 Highlights
The second game of the 2015 Stanley Cup finals was on Saturday, and Tampa Bay managed to tie up the series when they took home a 4-3 win over the Chicago Blackhawks. Unlike the first game, the second game saw the lead change quite a bit, especially in the second period. While Tampa Bay again managed to more or less take control over the first period of the game, Chicago turned things around in the second period. Unfortunately for them, this turnaround was to be short-winded.
The turnaround was due to Andrew Shaw and Teuvo Teravainen, who helped Chicago to take the lead over an early goal scored by Tampa Bay’s Cedric Paquette. But before rookie Teravainen could celebrate, he found his efforts outdone by Nikita Kucherov, who brought the Tampa Bay Lightning back up to 2-2. Tampa Bay then took the lead with a shot by Tyler Johnson.
As some have pointed out, Tyler Johnson’s shot was particularly unfortunate for the Blackhawks. Goalie Corey Crawford might easily be kicking himself over it, as the above-linked video shows just how easy it should have been for him to make the block on that one. But he wasn’t the only goalie who appeared to be struggling. Early in the third period, Tampa Bay found themselves again playing to break a tie after their goalie, Ben Bishop, let Chicago’s Brent Seabrook get the better of him on a long (albeit fairly clean) shot.
Chicago didn’t hold that tie for very long, however, as Tampa Bay’s Jason Garrison shortly made the goal that solidified the final score. The rest of Tampa Bay’s game was primarily built around defense, with goalie Ben Bishop being subbed out in favor of Andrei Vasilevskiy. The rookie Tampa Bay goalie joins players such as Chicago’s Teuvo Teravainen in showing that rookies can be highly important to a team’s success in the finals. The 2015 Stanley Cup winner, whoever it may be, will have their rookies to thank as much as their veteran players.
It’s a good thing that Vasilevskiy played as well as he did, because it appears that Ben Bishop may be out for the count for a little while. No one’s exactly sure what’s going on, but he had to leave the ice for a bit during the second game, and it’s been unconfirmed by head coach Jon Cooper whether or not Bishop will be returning to play for Tampa Bay in the next game. This has led to speculation, but it appears that there will be no answers until the third game has actually begun tonight.
With or without Bishop, Tampa Bay has shown in the last couple of games that they may have what it takes to win the 2015 Stanley Cup. This most recent game was an epic back and forth between both teams as they struggled to gain and maintain the lead, whereas the first game could have easily gone to Tampa Bay if they had managed to stick to their guns a little more throughout the last couple of periods. If they continue to play like they did on Saturday, it’s going to be difficult for the Blackhawks to keep up with them.
There weren’t really too many highlights on Saturday that didn’t directly relate to the score of the game. Tampa Bay’s Ondrej Palat continues to work well with Tyler Johnson and Nikita Kucherov, and rookie Jonathan Drouin had some decent plays. Neither Drouin nor Palat scored throughout the game, but they might be able to make a few goals in the coming games if they can step up their performance a little bit. This is especially true of Drouin, who is nowhere near the all-star rookie that Chicago’s Teravainen is turning out to be. Nonetheless, he shows great promise that could pay off with a little more experience.
Game 3 and Beyond
Right now, it’s anyone’s guess as to who is going to win this series. It has been pointed out by some that while the score may currently be tied, Tampa Bay has started the third period in each game with a one-point advantage. And while they gave up that advantage several times in the second game of the 2015 Stanley Cup finals, it never took them too long to gain it back. This could mean big things for them if they simply keep playing the way they have been.
Of course, there are others who say that Chicago should really have the advantage in this series. ESPN stated last week that the Blackhawks have some great players such as Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith and Marian Hossa. They state that between these players, all of whom are potential candidates for the Hall of Fame one day, Chicago should easily be able to win. They state that head coach Joel Quenneville could easily qualify for the Hall of Fame as well.
The only problem with this view is that none of the above players have contributed much to Chicago’s minimal success thus far. To be fair, at the time the above-linked article was published, the games had not commenced. Even so, it now appears that one of the strongest contributors to a win by the Blackhawks might actually be Teuvo Teravainen. And it’s also worth pointing out that the aforementioned article only said that the Blackhawks should be able to win. They stated that potential Hall of Famers Victor Hedman and Steven Stamkos were likely to help the Tampa Bay Lightning take home the trophy at the end of the series, with help from Tyler Johnson and Nikita Kucherov.
This latter theory holds a little more weight. While it may be true that Stamkos hasn’t had much time on the ice so far, that doesn’t mean he won’t be able to contribute to the team’s efforts. He’s definitely one of their best players, and he’d like to have some more time in the rink to show it, but he’ll inevitably do what he can with what he is given. His passion for the game and to help his team walk away with the cup are great enough that he will be doing everything he can to prove himself, no matter how little time he spends on the ice.
Some think that the lack of minutes played by Stamkos can be attributed to Jon Cooper’s status as a relative newcomer, although we shouldn’t pretend that he doesn’t know what he’s doing. He may have come out of the woodwork as a relatively inexperienced lawyer who ostensibly just turned his career around and started coaching hockey one day, but he’s obviously had enough success to make it this far. And while playing against a tried and true veteran like Joel Quenneville is going to test his mettle a little bit, he’s been doing what he can to work with team captain Stamkos and lead the team to greatness.
There is one thing for certain, which is that we’re going to learn a bit more about each team and their abilities throughout every game of this series. There’s a good chance that tonight’s game could go either way. Ben Bishop may start as goalie, or he might not. Stamkos might get more minutes, or he may get even less. Drouin may turn things around and do a little better, or else Teravainen will continue to demonstrate his prowess as the best rookie either team has to offer. Shaw may or may not bare his teeth again (or for the first time, depending upon how you believe it all went down). The answers to these questions and more will be revealed tonight, and possibly over the course of four more games hereafter.
If you want to see how it all works out, then tune in tonight at 8 Eastern/7 Central. And if you want to try your hand at winning some money on these games as the rest of the 2015 Stanley Cup finals, then either check out our complete guide to sports betting or else sign up for our free trial. Either way, enjoy the games!