ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Stanley Cup finals to feature speed and skill

While the Chicago Blackhawks were locked in their battles with the Anaheim Ducks, Chicago coach Joel Quenneville still made some time for a little relaxation.

While the Chicago Blackhawks were locked in their battles with the Anaheim Ducks, Chicago coach Joel Quenneville still made some time for a little relaxation.
It still involved hockey. Quenneville said he watched every game of the Eastern Conference finals between the New York Rangers and Tampa Bay Lightning.
During the series, Quenne-ville said even though the Hawks might face one of those teams in the Stanley Cup final, he wasn’t wearing his coaching cap while watching.
“I’m watching it to get entertained,” Quenneville said.
There was certainly plenty of entertainment value in a series that went seven games, one that contained as many twists and turns as the Hawks’ series against the Ducks.
But before Wednesday’s game, Quenneville is likely to pore over the games he watched and what he’ll see is a Lightning team that is capable of explosive offense and shutdown defense, which they played in their 2-0 Game 7 victory over the Rangers on Friday.
“They have a lot of options with their skill, how dangerous they can be with putting pucks in the net,” Quenneville said.
That was certainly true against the Rangers, with the Lightning scoring six goals in Games 2 and 3. In the second round against the Canadiens, the Lightning were able to solve Vezina Trophy finalist Carey Price.
Tyler Johnson has a playoff-leading 12 goals, and Nikita Kucherov has added nine. Meanwhile, Steven Stamkos finished second during the regular season with 43 goals.
Johnson and Kucherov, along with Ondrej Palat, play on the second line for the Lightning - a trio that has earned the nickname the Triplets for how similar in age the young line is. Johnson and Palat are 24 while Kucherov is 21.
“The thing that stands out to me is their team speed and their skill level up front,” defenseman Duncan Keith said. “I remember playing them toward the end of the season, and they beat us pretty good. As a team we’ve got a lot of respect for them. They’re there for a reason.”
If there’s one vulnerability in the Lightning’s game, it’s that while they score a lot, they can also give up a lot, which the Hawks may be able to exploit. Ben Bishop has been solid in net with a .920 save percentage during the playoffs, but the Lightning have been prone to defensive lapses.
The Lightning surrendered seven goals at home to the Rangers with a chance to close out the Eastern Conference finals in Game 6 while allowing five goals in Games 3 and 4.
The Hawks offense, meanwhile, is surging and made Ducks goaltender Frederik Andersen look more wobbly as the series progressed.
The Lightning are not like the physical Ducks the Hawks saw in the Western Conference Finals. They will try to beat the Hawks at their own game - speed and skill. The Hawks have adapted to different styles of play throughout the playoffs while maintaining the principles that have made them so successful. Now they will see an opponent that is trying to emulate them.
“We know how rare and how much hard work goes into the long season, getting to this point,” captain Jonathan Toews said. “We know how many little things have to go right to get to this point.”
The Lightning are getting to that point for the first time since 2004, when current Hawks center Brad Richards won a Cup with the team and many on its young roster were in middle school or high school. The Hawks have experience on their side, but that doesn’t always equate to victory.
About the only thing that is assured - the entertainment value will be high.

What To Read Next
The 28th induction ceremony is scheduled for Thursday, May 4.
Hermantown alum Beau Janzig had an assist on Hunter Bulger’s game-winning goal.
Brisbois’ 43 saves help Duluth hold on for tie in Section 7AA playoff primer.
The league would launch in summer 2024 and is polling interest in possible host cities.