The Blackhawks won’t list Game 4 among their best performances, because it wasn’t.
The start was slow. The end was furious. The middle was all right. But once again the Blackhawks, pretty outing or ugly one, found a way to win. Thanks to Brandon Saad’s early third-period goal and Corey Crawford’s overall performance, the Blackhawks head back to Tampa tied 2-2 in the Stanley Cup Final. Hey, however you get there, right?
So before we pack up for the night, let’s look at the Five Things to take from the Blackhawks’ 2-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning.
1. Saad strikes again. We keep talking about how much money Saad is earning this postseason. Well, he’s adding to it. His backhander at 6:22 of the third period gave the Blackhawks the lead and this time they didn’t lose it. Saad continues to impress, be it the teammates he’s had for a few seasons now or the ones who just joined the team this offseason. “It looks like he’s just out for a Sunday stroll sometimes,” Brad Richards said. “He’s three strides and he’s beating people down the ice."
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2. Hello, Andrei Vasilevskiy. You could imagine everyone’s surprise when the Lightning’s young backup goaltender led his team onto the ice for warm-ups. Of course you can – you were surprised, too. The Blackhawks were apparently so surprised they couldn’t get a shot on the Russian until more than eight minutes elapsed in the first period. Coach Jon Cooper said Ben Bishop, who’s dealing with an undisclosed injury, will play again in this series. He’s just not sure when. But Vasilevskiy played well. Regardless of goalie, however, the Blackhawks need to bring more against him.
3. Line-changing fun. Coach Joel Quenneville’s line combinations were different, that’s for sure. He was looking for balance, he was looking for more offensive production and he was looking for better team defense. Well, he got the last one, for sure. We’re not sure these line changes were the best we’ve ever seen but, welcome to the postseason, where everyone’s trying to outwit or surprise the opposition. As Quenneville said about postseason surprises, “we were expecting their other goalie in the net tonight, too, so I guess it’s 50-50.”
4. Johnny Oduya hangs in there. Speaking of guys struggling with an injury, there’s no doubt Oduya’s doing that. He was favoring his left arm/wrist/hand late in Game 3 and that was apparent again tonight. But that didn’t stop him from having a great game. Oduya played nearly 26 minutes and, along with Duncan Keith led the Blackhawks in blocked shots with five.
5. Gas left in the tank? The Blackhawks pulled this one out but you have to wonder how much they left in the tank. Is all the hockey and the physical series against Anaheim catching up to them? Hey, they found a way to tie this series, and we’ve seen this movie before: doubting the Blackhawks isn’t a wise move. Still, you wonder if the energy is dwindling.