It wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t pretty, but the Chicago Blackhawks beat the Tampa Bay Lightning, 2-1, in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Finals on Wednesday to even the series at two games apiece. Chicago survived a furious rally from Tampa in the final minute once goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy was pulled for the man advantage.
“They pulled him, and it was just frenetic energy,” NESN NHL analyst Billy Jaffe said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “Great stuff. (It was) a game that for awhile wasn’t that pretty, especially for the Hawks. In the first period, they got absolutely really controlled. They were outshot 9-2 in the first period, and two or the three of their best chances missed the net. They just didn’t seem to have the jump, but they found a way to win this one. One thing that’s been really interesting is it hasn’t been nearly as physical, say, as the Anaheim/Chicago series. It’s been physical, but nowhere near as heavy as that. But it just seems like the Hawks are struggling to get that overall sustained intensity and energy in this one so far.”
The Blackhawks finally got some production from Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa. Kane and Hossa each had an assist, while Toews gave Chicago a 1-0 lead in the second period.
The Lightning have really limited that trio in this series.
“I’d agree,” Jaffe said. “I think they’ve done a really, really good job on them. Toews getting the goal is going to make him feel good. It’s his tenth of his playoffs, but he hadn’t scored in the series here. The Kane assist comes off the (game-winning) goal for (Brandon) Saad, who really did the work part of it, really did the hard, driving-to-the-front-of-the-net work. They needed that kind of goal. It wasn’t a greasy goal. It’s just a workmanlike, blue-collar (goal). He went in from that face-off circle to the right of Vasilevskiy, and he drove to the net and corralled it and then slammed it home through the five hole. Listen, we know the Hawks. They’ve got so much talent, but they just haven’t been able to generate sustained energy. For the first half of the game, they just didn’t have a lot of energy and a lot of offensive zone time, but we got to give a lot of credit to Tampa, too. Their D has really, as a team, been excellent.”
Even though the series is tied, Scott Ferrall believes the Lightning have outplayed the Blackhawks overall and have really been a nightmare matchup for them.
“They have,” Jaffe said. “I don’t think the Hawks took them lightly in the sense that we don’t respect them. I don’t think they knew them well, and then the speed of Tampa being able to make plays at high, fast-paced (speeds) can be disconcerting. Tampa’s willingness to grind it out has been impressive at times, too, so that wears you down.
“Tampa has really shown the hockey world something,” Jaffe continued. “When the playoffs began, I thought they were better than they were last year, but I didn’t know if they were ready and mature enough to do what it takes to win certain games in the playoffs, and they did it against the Rangers the last few games. They shut them out in 5 and 7, 2-0 on the road, and they’re doing it in this series. This sets up now for really good stuff on Saturday night in Tampa.”
Coverage begins at 8 p.m. ET.