By James McKinnie / @MrESPN
The Chicago Blackhawks were in a must-win situation going into Game 4 at the United Center. They were arguably minutes away from possibly being down 3-1 in the Stanley Cup Final to the Tampa Bay Lightning.
A few bounces went their way and they escaped with a Game 1 victory. Fast forward to Game 4, and two losses later, the Blackhawks were in desperate need of some answers.
Their two stars, Jonathan Toews & Patrick Kane, were held to just one point so far in the series. On Wednesday night, they answered the call.
Toews finally scored a goal in the series while Kane added an assist on the game-winning goal by Brandon Saad. This was Saad’s fourth goal in his last six games.
Talk about clutch.
“I loved his game tonight,” Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville said. “Great power move to the net. He’s fast, he’s big, he’s strong, he’s dangerous. Very good performance.”
It will be hard for the Blackhawks to retain Saad this summer as he becomes a restricted free agent. Plus, with each playoff goal that he scores his services will only warrant more contract dollars when teams begin to inquire about him for next season.
So now that Toews aka Captain Serious has done his part in keeping his team in the series, the pressure falls squarely on the Eastern Conference champions as they go back home to Tampa Bay.
Steven Stamkos, in particular.
He collected his first point in six games on Wednesday as he assisted on Alex Killorn’s goal in the second period.
Speaking of Killorn, it seems as if his goal-scoring magic has ended. In the first seven playoff games that he scored in the Lightning won. Since then, the Bolts have lost two straight games when he’s lit up the red light.
Fortunately for Killorn, he’s not the captain of the team; Stamkos is. So he’s not under the same amount of pressure going into Game 5.
Stamkos hasn’t scored since May 24 when the Lightning beat the Rangers, 2-0, in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Final. To Stamkos' credit, he says he's not frustrated...but should he be? (From Yahoo! Hockey)
"Nope. Not frustrated,” he said. “I mean, it's going to go, I just stick with it. If I had those two chances over again I'd try to get it away as quick as I could. The first one, their 'D' got a stick on it. Not much I can do. The looks are coming. Our game is right there. They're eventually going to start going in, hopefully in bunches. This one is a tough one. I thought we had it. We had the game right where we felt comfortable and they get one off a faceoff, a little broken down play. We'll regroup here and get back and ready to play in front of our fans."
Another Lightning player that has slowed down in lighting up the scoreboard is Tyler Johnson. After scoring 12 goals in the first 16 playoff games, Johnson has only scored once in the past eight games. Again, luckily for him, he’s not the leader of the young team from Florida.
The time is now for the Lightning captain. His teammates have carried him to this point, but now it’s time for the leader to step up and act like one.
Jonathan Toews stepped up to be the top dog that the Blackhawks needed him to be, and scored a huge goal when his team needed it the most.
Steven Stamkos has to step up and do the same for the Lightning on Saturday night. Otherwise, it’ll be another lost season for a team in a sport where very few second chances are given.
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