1. Special teams need to be special
The Blackhawks have not lost a playoff game when they have scored a power play goal in 2015. Pretty important stuff when you consider they have done this in seven of their 12 wins so far. The margin between winning and losing is so close in the playoffs that you have to take advantage of your advantages. I really like how Brad Richards is fitting in on the point as part of the No. 1 power play unit. He has great chemistry with Patrick Kane, and is always looking for No. 88 when he has the puck. But beware of your perceived advantage. Tampa Bay has scored three short-handed goals — tied with Chicago for most in the playoffs — so don’t relax when you have the extra man.
2. Keep an eye on Stamkos
Steven Stamkos did not have a very good start to the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs with just one goal in his first 11 games, but the leader of the Lightning has struck frequently ever since. He has six goals in his last nine games and now one of the most dangerous shooters in the NHL is feeling really good about himself. And why shouldn’t he? Stamkos finished the regular season with 43 goals, good for second best in the NHL. Of those 43 goals, 17 came against Original Six teams. That means 40 percent of his goals came against 20 percent of the league. Now, I’m not into conspiracy theories here, but Stamkos is a student of the game and he obviously brings it up a notch against these historic franchises. He has 11 goals in just nine career games against the Blackhawks. Stamkos, Alex Killorn and Valtteri Filppula make up a dangerous trio.
3. Crow takes Bishop
As often happens in a tightly contested Stanley Cup Final, and this one should be, how your goalie plays says a lot about who hoists Lord Stanley when all is said and done. I really liked how Corey Crawford played in his last two games against Anaheim, stopping 65 of 70 shots in those two contests. Not only was that a fairly heavy work load, but he also did a fantastic job of playing pucks to defensemen and forwards during those games, relieving a lot of pressure from the Ducks forecheck. Ben Bishop has been really good, and then not so good, during his last five starts. Yes, he shut out the New York Rangers on their home ice in Games 5 and 7, but in Games 3, 4, and 6, he allowed five goals in each of those contests, He was pulled during a very important Game 6 in Tampa. Get to Bishop early and get him thinking about bad goals.