The Stanley Cup Finals begin Wednesday in Tampa Bay, but even though the Lightning have home-ice advantage, many wonder if they have enough depth and firepower to keep up with the Chicago Blackhawks.
“Yeah, and that’s the real question about this series,” Yahoo! Sports Puck Daddy blogger Greg Wyshynski said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “You’re giving Chicago a few days to look at Tampa to break down tape, to understand what they do. And it’s whether or not the (Jonathan) Toews line can shut down the (Steven) Stamkos line and whatever the Blackhawks throw against the triplets – the theory being it’s probably Marcus Kruger’s line and then probably whatever pairing Duncan Keith is on – whether they can kind of slow them down.
“Because the real issue for the Lightning in this series, to me, is two-fold,” Wyshynski continued. “One, they were 28 percent on the power play against the Rangers, and I don’t think they’re going to repeat that against the Blackhawks, who did a hell of a job against the Ducks’ power play in the previous series. And the other issue is the fact that I think the final number was 22 out of the 23 goals they scored against the Rangers were scored by the top six forwards. I can’t imagine you’re going to get that kind of production against the Blackhawks in this series.
“If it falls to the depth players – if it falls to your Ryan Callahans and your Brian Boyles and players like that – I just think that the Blackhawks have so much more firepower and accomplished players in their bottom six than do the Lightning and that could be something that turns the series.”
So could the goaltending. Ben Bishop and Corey Crawford have both been up and down this postseason; Crawford was benched twice in the first round, while Bishop has allowed 5+ goals in three of his last five games. The other two games? Shutouts. Both on the road, including Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals.
“I think at the end of the day, you’re dealing with the same kind of goalie,” Wyshynski said. “I think you’re dealing with two guys where they need the team in front of them to bail them out sometimes. This isn’t a couple of Lundqvists or a couple of Carey Prices or Dominik Haseks or anything like that. I think in both cases, it’s more about whether they’re the last line of defense behind a great defense versus them ever stealing a game.”
Bishop was excellent in Games 5 and 7 against the Rangers, leading Tampa to a pair of 2-0 wins.
“The Lightning played perfect road games in front of him,” Wyshynski said. “He was flawless. He didn’t make a mistake. He didn’t give up a goal. But those games in which he gives up four or five goals and then comes back with a great effort – it’s not only him playing better, but it’s also the team in front of him kind of, in the words of Ben Bishop, ‘remembering their net’ versus trying to get down ice and be a bit too offensive.
“But the one thing I got to say about Corey Crawford – and I’m not a big Crawford fan – but his numbers late in the playoffs are very good,” Wyshynski continued. “In the first round, there were people calling for his head, calling for Scott Darling to take the job. He took the crease back and didn’t give it back up. And in the latter part of the Ducks’ series, he was great. He is statistically a goalie that seems to play better as the postseason goes on, so that’s something to watch in this series.”