In what might be the final game of the 2014-2015 NHL season, the Chicago Blackhawks will try to finish off the Tampa Bay Lightning, holding a 3-2 lead in the Stanley Cup Finals heading into game 6.
On their two previous attempts at winning the title (2010, 2013), the Blackhawks did it in six, twice rising a bit too high for anyone (Bruins, Flyers) to catch up with them. They’re counting on the experience and their efficiency in making the most of the Lightning’s mistakes (and there were plenty of them in game 5) to carry them through towards a third trophy in six seasons.
I think it’s always about staying ready. I guess that starts in practice. Whether it be myself or Bryan Bickell or Vermy or whoever is not in the lineup on any given night, we all feel we’re good players, we all feel we’re players that can contribute. I don’t think that confidence is lost in us. We know that one of our strengths as a team and organization is our depth. Sometimes you use it.
The Blackhawks haven’t been able to clinch a Stanley Cup trophy on their home ice since 1938. The Lightning won game 3 on the road in this series and have done pretty well away from home in this series, so although they are under the pressure of win or go home, from their comments to the media it seems they know very well what needs to be done and how to do it. One key will be putting the triplets line back together, with Nikita Kucherov being healthier than two nights ago.
We’ll find a way. There’s really no choice that we have. We’ll have an optional skate tomorrow, so don’t read anything into it if he’s not on the ice. To be honest, I thought there was a chance he was coming back last night. But it didn’t work out. These two days will give him the rest he needs.
Mentally, the Lightning didn’t seem to break, despite the loss. No one wins in blow outs this time of year, and it was more about taking advantage of the given opportunities than anything else that guided the Blackhawks to the victory that broke the tie with a team that doesn’t have their depth, but has one thing that works especially well for them and they’ll go to that one more time in hope that it’s not too late.
There’s pressure on Chicago as well, despite the 3-2 lead. They’re playing at home, with a crowd hungry to see them lift the cup. Playing once again in Tampa Bay isn’t a warm, fuzzy feeling. It’s not a now or never scenario, but it’s enough to put some rush into certain players. Good thing the Blackhawks have won 15 of their last 19 potential series clinching games.
Obviously there’s a lot of buzz, a lot of excitement, a lot of things going on around the entire event. I think we’re just going to do our best as individuals to focus on our job as players and focus on the game and nothing more. None of that stuff is really going to help us achieve what we want to achieve. That’s where our heads are at right now.