BY: Jason M. Sanin
In a Stanley Cup Final featuring two teams with championship experience and plenty of firepower, ice hockey betting experts tabbed the Chicago Blackhawks as favorites to defeat the Tampa Bay Lightning. After a furious third period comeback, Chicago proved those experts right, winning Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final by two goals to one.
Heading into the opening game of this championship series, many pundits expected a high scoring game due to the offensive dominance shown by both Chicago and Tampa Bay during the previous rounds of the National Hockey League postseason. Those pundits, however, were sadly mistaken, as both teams were proficient defensively in this game.
Tampa Bay opened the scoring in the first period, with Alex Killorn putting in his eighth goal of the postseason to give the Lightning the lead. That goal was the only goal either team would score until the third period, where things opened up to make for a very interesting finish.
In that third period, the Blackhawks were dominant, scoring two goals in the span of two minutes. The game tying goal was scored by Teuvo Teravainen, who assisted Antoine Vermette on the game winning goal with just four and a half minutes left to play. Chicago managed to hold on during a frantic series of final minutes to earn the win, and further their chances to win the series in the eyes of tipsters.
The game shifted in the third period due to Tampa Bay’s strategy to focus on defense after scoring their lone goal of the game. Instead of continuing to be the aggressors in the game as they were in the lead up to their goal, the Lightning were content to sit back and allow the Blackhawks to control the tempo and pepper goalkeeper Ben Bishop with shots. Their change in approach was reminiscent of a Jose Mourinho led Chelsea squad upon earning a lead in a football match, minus the typical success that Mourinho enjoys with that strategy.
And while there is certainly blame to be assessed to the Lightning for their tactical errors in the final two periods of the game, Blackhawks goalkeeper Corey Crawford deserves a world of credit for keeping Chicago within striking distance to allow them to win the game with those two late goals.
Crawford only allowed one goal on 23 shots from Tampa Bay, many of which came during a lackluster first period for the Blackhawks. Had Crawford not stepped up and delivered such a performance, the goals from Teravainen and Vermette may have only been consolation goals when all was said and done and not the game winners.
Chicago now has a one game to none lead in this best of seven series, with Game 2 of the series set to take place on Saturday night. The Blackhawks have now stolen home ice advantage away from Tampa Bay, and look to put the Lightning in a very dangerous position in the second game of the series. Tampa Bay will want to focus on not sinking into a defensive shell as they did in this game, as they hope to avoid repeating their failures from this game.