By James McKinnie / @MrESPN
Before the Stanley Cup Final began, the narrative of the series was that the Chicago Blackhawks were simply too experienced to fall to the younger Tampa Bay Lightning. But after Monday night’s Game 3 win by the Lightning in Chicago, the youthful Lightning are now two wins away from hoisting the Stanley Cup.
Up to this point the Blackhawks have been carried by their captain, Jonathan Toews, and leading scorer, Patrick Kane. However, through three games, the two stars have combined for a single point. Toews had an assist in the Game 2 loss.
This is quite a predicament for the league’s powerhouse. When it comes to this stage of the season, teams either need their star players to play like stars or for role players to play like stars. Neither is happening for the Blackhawks through three games. Also, their coach is upset and kicking towels. (H/T to SB Nation)
Outside of Teuvo Teravainen single-handedly winning Game 1 for Chicago and scoring again in Game 2, the Blackhawks have failed to find a steady group of extramural scorers. Antoine Vermette, Andrew Shaw, Brent Seabrook, Brad Richards and Brandon Saad have each scored a goal for the experienced bunch, but none of them have scored more than once.
Chicago only has two players that have nine or more goals in this year’s playoffs. It’s not hard to guess who those two players are. Tampa Bay, on the other hand, has four players with eight or more goals in the postseason.
The argument could be made that the Lightning, although lacking experience, are deeper than the Blackhawks. In any sport, if you don’t have the experience, you at least better have the depth.
Alex Killorn scored a pedestrian 15 goals in the regular season. In the playoffs alone, he’s scored more than half of that. Up until Game 1 of this series, when Killorn scored, the Lightning won the game. If Chicago didn’t steal Game 1 away from Killorn and the Lightning, Tampa Bay would be up 3-0.
Coulda, woulda, shoulda.
Ondrej Palat is another non-household name putting up major numbers in the playoffs. His 16 goals in the regular season were good enough to make him the fifth leading scorer on the team, but now his eight goals in the postseason have him as the third leading scorer.
The same knock on Toews and Kane could also be shared with Lightning star Steven Stamkos.
The young superstar has struggled all postseason to score. He went scoreless against the Red Wings, in the first round, but again the team’s secondary scorers helped the Lightning squeak past the prestigious Detroit team.
He would rebound to score three goals against the Montreal Canadiens, and four more goals against the New York Rangers. Now he’s back on the scoreless drought, but his team is still winning the series.
If the Lightning can keep out-dueling the Blackhawks, while containing Toews and Kane, Steve Yzerman’s group of young generals could pull off one of the biggest upsets in Stanley Cup Final history.
I'm a lifelong fan of all Detroit sports, and I love all Michigan State sports