By: Jason M. Sanin
In what amounted to a must win game for the Chicago Blackhawks, the team found a way to get the job done and tie the Stanley Cup Final at two games to two with the Tampa Bay Lightning, with a tense two goals to one victory in Chicago. Top ice hockey betting experts and fans alike have been treated to a very evenly matched series so far.
Chicago had the benefit of facing Tampa Bay’s backup goalkeeper, Andrei Vasilevskiy, who has been forced to replace starting goalkeeper Ben Bishop at different points in this season due to an undisclosed ailment to Bishop. While Vasilevskiy is a talented goalkeeper, his lack of playoff experience relative to what Bishop has seen in this year’s postseason alone has been a factor. Even though Vasilevskiy did a decent job in this game, his efforts weren’t good enough.
Both teams went scoreless until the second period, when Jonathan Toews scored his tenth goal of the postseason to give the Blackhawks the lead. Just five minutes later, though, Alex Killorn scored for Tampa Bay to even things out at one goal apiece. Killorn’s ninth goal of the postseason was much needed for Tampa Bay to keep things close throughout.
However, it was Brandon Saad who was the hero in this game, scoring for Chicago in the third period to give the Blackhawks the lead once again, one they would not relinquish for the duration of the contest. It was Saad’s eighth goal of the postseason, and was certainly his most important of this year’s NHL playoffs, as it was the one that tied this series at two games to two.
Chicago managed to win this game despite being outshot by Tampa Bay. The Lightning managed 25 shots on goal, compared to just 19 for the Blackhawks, who have goalkeeper Corey Crawford to thank for the series being level after four games. Crawford, who faced criticism from Blackhawks fans earlier in the postseason, shined in this game with 24 saves on those 25 Lightning shots.
In fact, in Chicago’s two wins in this Stanley Cup Final round, Crawford has allowed just two goals, saving 96% of the shots he’s faced in those two games. In Chicago’s two losses in this round, he has conceded seven goals. This is to say that Crawford has been a great barometer of what kind of chances the Blackhawks have to win on a given night. When Crawford is good, he’s been great, and when he’s been off, the whole team has struggled. Blackhawks fans will hope for an effective Crawford in the final three games of this series, while fans and ice hockey tipsters will hope for similarly inconsistent performances from the Chicago goalkeeper to keep this entertaining series going for as long as possible.
Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final will take place on Saturday, June 13, and will be played in Tampa Bay. Whoever wins that game will only have to win one of the final two games of the series to lift the Stanley Cup, so you can be sure that both sides will play as if their lives depended on it on Saturday.