Stanley Cup Final: Lightning responding on the road


Stanley Cup Final: Lightning responding on the road

The Tampa Bay Lightning talked about the “must-win” feeling, or lack thereof, heading into Game 2 last week.

Their reasoning was simple.

“We’re pretty confident in our road game,” Matt Carle said at the time. “We’ve shown that a lot throughout the playoffs; where we need to have a must-win on the road, we’ve been able to pull that out.”

[RELATED - 'Bad habit' of coughing up lead dooms Blackhawks in Game 3]

It’s hard to argue the logic, considering the Lightning’s effective road game. It was on display again on Monday night when they beat the Blackhawks 3-2 in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final.

The Lightning have a postseason-best 8-3 road mark; their last road loss was Game 1 – yes, Game 1 – of the Eastern Conference Final. They didn’t do anything fancy on Monday night. They didn’t dominate in any particular period, as the Blackhawks did in the first. The Lightning were just steady, playing simple and taking advantage of opportunities.

“I'm not sure if we know exactly the one detail. If we did, we'd do it at home, too,” Brenden Morrow said. “It could be a combination of a lot of things. But maybe when we get on the road there maybe isn't as much focus because we can't have it on matchups. We just go out and play. We're a team that when we have no hesitation to our game, we’re very successful. So that could be part of it. You turn off the thinker a little bit.”

The Lightning also keep their cool on the road. They’ve had to, considering the raucous visiting atmospheres they’ve played in throughout this postseason. They claimed Game 6 in Detroit, where the Red Wings had the chance to eliminate them. They took the first two games at the Bell Centre in Montreal. They won Games 5 and 7 – by shutout, no less – at Madison Square Garden to eventually eliminate the New York Rangers.

And that cool came in handy again on Monday night, when they scored just 13 seconds after the Blackhawks took a 2-1 advantage in the third period.

[MORE HAWKS: Blackhawks fan CM Punk calls out Hulk Hogan]

Can the Lightning continue that great roadwork and take a 3-1 lead in this series? It won’t be easy. As good as the Lightning have been away from home, the Blackhawks have been great at the United Center. Monday marked just their second postseason loss here – the other was Game 3 against the Anaheim Ducks. The Lightning play a strong road game, practicing patience yet keeping the right amount of aggressiveness. They’re confident right now in what they can do on the road. They have the results at previous stops to prove it.

“Last game was a big win for our group,” Steven Stamkos said on Tuesday. “We’ve said how the past couple games, we're finding consistency at the right time. We're able to deal with those different emotions. That's when you need it most at this time of the year, being able to respond to a big win and a tough loss. Our group has been able to do that.”

Wake-up call? Brandon Saad 'surprised' about possibility of being a healthy scratch


Wake-up call? Brandon Saad 'surprised' about possibility of being a healthy scratch

Brandon Saad played a majority of last season on the first line, started this season on the second to change things up, got demoted to the fourth by the fifth game, and could find himself out of the lineup in the sixth.

Before the Blackhawks hit the ice for practice on Monday, the 25-year-old winger found a white jersey hanging in his stall. That's usually reserved for players who are injured — Andreas Martinsen (back) was the only other player wearing one — or players who are on the outside looking in, which appears to be Saad right now considering he was not part of the four-line rotation.

"I don't think anyone wants to be wearing white around here," he said. "But it is what it is and there's nothing you can do but keep trying to improve. It's their job to make the call to put the best team out there to win hockey games."

Known for being even-keeled through the ups and downs, Saad expressed disappointment about the possibility of being a healthy scratch on Thursday against the Arizona Coyotes. He didn't exactly show that emotion following his demotion to the fourth line, perhaps out of respect to the players he was playing with by noting how it brings balance.

But he did on Monday, and it was the first time we've really seen some sort of emotion out of him.

"Everyone makes mistakes and things aren't always going to go your way but to be out of the lineup, a little surprised today," Saad said. "But it is what it is. ... No one wants to be out of the lineup. That's never fun regardless of who you are."

When asked to pinpoint what's gone wrong, Saad said he wasn't the right person to ask.

"I think you got to ask him that," he said, referring to Joel Quenneville and the coaching staff. "It's his calls. For me, you can talk pros and cons as much as you want but just trying to go out there and compete and win hockey games. We've won a few here, I know every game has gone to overtime so they've been close. Nothing was said to me about lineup change or anything like that. You just come in and you see your jersey and you go out there and you play."

So Quenneville was asked.

"Just expect more," he said. "That's the situation."

Is his mindset in the right place?

"I think he's fine," Quenneville said. "His mindset is what it is. Whether it's urgency or passion, coming up with loose pucks in those areas is going to be the difference."

The Blackhawks sending a message shouldn't only be directed at Saad. It also serves as a reminder to his teammates and is important to note for the younger guys about earning your ice time.

"I don't really know where the coaches are coming from so I'm not going to comment on that," Jonathan Toews said respectfully. "But [Saad] has been doing some good things and I think it's good for all of us to know what's going on there because if [Saad] can get his ice time taken away, then so can a lot of guys, myself included. So we all want to play well and have team success."

The Blackhawks need Saad to return to form quickly because he's crucial to their overall success. There's no debate about that. It's why the thought of Saad, who played in all 82 games last season, serving as the 13th forward is frustrating for everyone involved.

It hasn't been a problem in the past, but now it's becoming one because of the Blackhawks' aspirations of getting back to the playoffs and their dependence on their top players.

"I don’t think it’s an issue," Quenneville said. "We just expect more out of him."

Blackhawks make sports history with fifth straight overtime game to start season

Blackhawks make sports history with fifth straight overtime game to start season

The Blackhawks made sports history on Saturday after they appeared in their fifth straight overtime game to start the season.

No NHL team has done that since the league introduced a regular-season overtime period in 1983-84, per the Elias Sports Bureau. It also has never happened in the history of MLB, NBA or NFL, showing just how crazy this early season run has been for the Blackhawks, who have rallied from all five games and have come away with wins in three of them.

"We’ve had five games, every one of them have been extremely intense and the game’s been on the line from start to finish," coach Joel Quenneville said following a 4-3 overtime win over the St. Louis Blues. "Our group’s been competitive this year, the guys have been working hard for one another. I don’t know how many games we’ve been down in the third period, and coming back to win is special."

The Blackhawks appeared in 17 overtime/shootout games last season and won seven of them. They are one of six teams this season that have yet to pick up a regulation win.

On a separate note, Saturday marked the eighth time in Blackhawks history that one player scored a tying goal in the third period and scored in overtime (Alex DeBrincat), according to the NHL's PR department. It's the second time it's happened this year for the Blackhawks, with Jonathan Toews the other on Oct. 6 against St. Louis.