After two games, it's hard to ask much more from the Chicago Blackhawks and Tampa Bay Lightning in the Stanley Cup Final. To this point, the matchup has given us enthralling play, comebacks, a weird goalkeeping situation in Game 2 and an exciting breakneck pace.
So what's in store for Game 3? Let's break it down.
|Game 3 Viewing Info|
|Monday, June 8||8 p.m.||Chicago||NBCSN|
If there's been one constant in this series, it has been this: In each contest, the Lightning went into the third period with a one-goal advantage. In Game 1, that lead didn't hold up to the end. In Game 2, the Lightning didn't let the result get away from them.
Frankly, Game 2 was about as good as hockey gets. Chicago and Tampa Bay played at an open up-and-down pace, the Lightning inexplicably made three goalkeeping changes and you got the impression watching that if the Blackhawks had a few more minutes, they might have just tied things up.
But the win also proved that the Lightning have the mental toughness to compete with the more experienced Blackhawks, as head coach Jon Cooper told Corey Masisak of NHL.com:
We're learning the Stanley Cup Playoffs on the job. I think what happened to us the other night was a lesson learned. It's the first time that it happened to us in the playoffs. So what are we going to do about that? Put in that position again, what do you do?
That position happened midway through the game when we had the 1-0 lead. There go the two quick goals, it's 2-1. Our guys wouldn't be denied. There was a fire on that bench when that happened. There wasn't panic, it was [anger]. You got to love that in your team, that in 72 short hours, we're coming back.
Going back to Chicago will represent an all-new test, however. The Blackhawks are 7-1 at home this postseason and could completely take control of this series with consecutive wins in their home building. The Lightning haven't exactly been slouches on the road, however, going 7-3 in these playoffs away from home.
There's also the question of who will play in goal for the Lightning after incumbent Ben Bishop was taken out of the game twice, eventually for good late in the third period. Will the team now turn to Andrei Vasilevskiy for Game 3?
Tampa's goalkeeping situation will be worth monitoring going forward, much like Chicago's was early in this postseason before Corey Crawford re-emerged. The goalie wasn't at his best in Game 2, however, though you can certainly credit Tampa's attack for much of that.
Chicago's attack has been just as dangerous, and it will be tough to bet against the Blackhawks in Game 3 with the home crowd at their back. They haven't lost consecutive games in this postseason (the Lightning have done so just once against Montreal), and after seizing home-ice advantage with their Game 1 win, they won't be keen to give it back with a loss in Game 3.
The Lightning proved in Game 2 they have the mental toughness and skill to challenge the Blackhawks in this series. Now, they have to prove they can take that approach on the road as well. Given Chicago's experience and talent of its own, however, Game 3 certainly feels like the sort of game this team simply wins more often than not.
Prediction: Blackhawks win 3-2