The Chicago Blackhawks have a golden opportunity at their feet on Saturday night as they can secure a 2-0 lead in the Stanley Cup Final against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Winning the first two games of this series in central Florida would not only mean that the Blackhawks would only have to win two more games to secure a championship, but it would also mean that the Lightning would have to win twice at the United Center in order to keep their title dreams alive.
Getting a second consecutive win in Tampa isn’t going to be easy, but we have three keys to victory for the Blackhawks as the game draws near.
Crawford Must Stand Tall Again
In Game 1 of the series, the Lightning came out with all guns blazing, firing shot after shot on goal and putting an immense amount of pressure on Corey Crawford in the Hawks’ net. Other than a crazy redirected goal by Alex Killorn however, Crawford stood tall and was able to keep the Blackhawks in the game until their third period comeback resulted in a victory.
The Bolts are going to try to use a similar strategy in Game 2, coming out strong and putting the Blackhawks back on their heels, and Crawford has to be ready for it. He has played at a Conn Smythe-level ever since he was reinserted into the lineup during the series against Nashville, and he’ll have to be in top form to help the Hawks Saturday night.
More Early Pressure Needs to be Applied
The Blackhawks seemed content to let the Lightning dictate the pace of Game 1 and ceded large chunks of the ice to them in the early going, but if Game 2 is going to be a success for Chicago, they have got to come out with more intensity early on.
Joel Quenneville nailed it in his press conference when he said that the Blackhawks have to approach this game as a “must win.” The team cannot be content with going back to Chicago with the series tied at a game apiece. They have to look at this is as an opportunity to set up camp inside Tampa’s collective brain, and grabbing a 2-0 series lead before they play at the United Center Monday night would give them a huge psychological edge in this series.
Top Six Forwards Need to Step Up
Game 1 of the series saw the third line step up in a big way, with Teuvo Teravainen and Antoine Vermette each scoring goals in the third period to secure the victory. The Blackhawks’ top two lines were a much different story however, as their possession numbers weren’t up to snuff and they didn’t create the scoring opportunities necessary to win the game.
If the Blackhawks are going to have any success on Saturday, they have to find a way to get their big guns loaded and ready to go. Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane may have to stay split up in order to improve the depth of the top two lines, and that would mean one of those players could have an advantageous line matchup against Tampa in this game. If that happens, the player with the favorable deployment has to take advantage and make a statement in this game.