Holding a 2-1 lead in the series, the Tampa Bay Lightning are heading into game 4 very confident, feeling like all the experience the Chicago Blackhawks have in their favor isn’t as important as simply playing good hockey and making the most of the opportunities you get.
One thing Blackhawks players and their head coach, Joel Quenneville, are trying to convey is that they’re not worried, and there’s no panic despite dropping a home game that they had in their grasp. Since taking over the team in 2008, Quenneville and the Blackhawks are 30-30 in the playoffs in games 1-3 of a series but 40-14 in games 4-7, showing that their best might still be waiting over the rainbow.
If you don’t want that challenge, if you don’t want that spotlight almost, then you shouldn’t be here. I think we all work for that. We want to play those important games. Well, we got a great core of leaders. They’re competitive as heck. They find a way to get better each and every game. They make guys around them better.
One thing the Blackhawks ARE concerned about is their knack to giving up goals right after they scored one. It took less than 20 seconds for the Lightning to tie the game in game 3 through Ondrej Palat and completely shift the momentum. The Blackhawks, who have allowed 10 goals within two minutes after they scored in the playoffs, including five inside of a minute.
The Lightning are trying to make the most of the situation. They’re not as experienced, true, but when you’re good, you’re good, and it doesn’t matter how many Stanley Cup series your players have been through. However, with the second half of the series approaching, there’s a good chance we’re going to see more and more of talk about the mental fortitude of Lightning players and their ability to handle the pressure. They’re doing it quite well so far.
This is going to be a good test for this group. Obviously they have the experience. But we’re going through it. Like I said a couple minutes ago, you have to go through these situations to gain that experience. We seem to rise to the occasion every round. I truly believe we’ve grown as a team through some of our struggles. You just think of last night’s game. We’re in a pretty hostile environment. It’s a 1-1 game. We go down in the third. There was no hang the head. It was, `OK, now we got to dig the heels in and go get this one.
The Lightning weren’t expected to make it this far, but they have, and it just goes to show past experience isn’t necessary to succeed. The playoffs, despite the series form, are about getting hot at the right time. The Lightning are doing it, and they’ve already knocked off the supposedly best team in Hockey (New York Rangers). The Blackhawks might be just as difficult or even more, but it doesn’t make them unbeatable. Those two Stanley Cups happened in 2013 and 2010, not now.