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Blackhawks even Finals as Lightning’s Ben Bishop sits

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Would he have stopped the first one?

Would he have stopped the second?

In the final analysis, would Big Ben Bishop have made a difference?

A fan of the Tampa Bay Lightning may never know as he dissects a 2-1 defeat to the Chicago Blackhawks in Game Four of the Stanley Cup Finals. Bishop, the NHL’s winningest goalie this year (if you count regular-season and playoffs), was in the stands for Wednesday night’s game, watching as Chicago got one goal on a carom off rookie Andrei Vasilevskiy‘s leg and another that was “pretty lucky” by Brandon Saad.

True, Vasilevskiy played well, but when a team is missing one of its mainstays, it cannot help but wonder if that player might have made a difference. On the other hand, it is doubtful that one goal was going to win the game, which will leave a fan with a critical eye to look at some other shortcomings of its team.

For instance, captain Steven Stamkos has not scored a goal in six games.

For instance, Tyler Johnson has only one in his last eight.

For instance, Nikita Kucherov has only one in his last six.

In particular, this had to be a difficult game for Stamkos to absorb. He had several chances from point-blank range in the late going and could not score. Stamos had scored in six of his previous seven games before the slump, which has begun to resemble the way he looked against Detroit in the opening series.

Lightning coach Jon Cooper said he was not concerned with Stamkos’ play.

“Not at all,” he said. “I’ve watched him play. I’ve had the best seat in the house to watch him for two years. You don’t keep him down forever. He’s gone through this before.

“I’ll be honest. I don’t know how one of those didn’t go in. I’m sure there were a lot of nervous people in the stands when we were zipping it around down there. What I like to see form Stammer is that he got his looks. They just didn’t go in for him.”

“If you tell me we’re going to come in and he’s going to give up two goals, that’s a hell of a job in my book. We’ve had a lot of success when we’ve only given up two.  We win more of those games than we don’t.  We did everything we asked that kid.  That kid gave us a chance to win the hockey game.  We just scored one.  We got to score more than that.

“I thought he was great.  And as I’ve said, I’ve said this during the series, it doesn’t matter which guy we put in there, we’ve got full confidence in both guys. He showed that he can play.  That’s a pretty big achievement for a 20-year-old.”

The Lightning dominated the first period, protecting their rookie goaltender and giving up only two shots. The Blackhawks’ Brad Richards called it the team’s worst game of the series.

Yet, Chicago won, making this a best-of-three series with two of the games in Tampa. The first of those will be Saturday night at Amalie Arena.

Gary Shelton is one of the most recognized and honored sportswriters in the history of the state. He has won the APSE's national columnist of the year twice and finished in the top 10 eight times. He was named the Florida Sportswriter of the Year six times. Gary joined SaintPetersBlog in the spring, helping to bring a sports presence to the website. Over his time in sports writing, Gary has covered 29 Super Bowls, 10 Olympics, Final Fours, Masters, Wimbledons and college national championships. He was there when the Bucs won a Super Bowl, when the Lightning won a Stanley Cup and when the Rays went to a World Series. He has seen Florida, FSU and Miami all win national championships, and he covered Bear Bryant, Bobby Bowden and Don Shula along the way. He and his wife Janet have four children: Eric, Kevin, K.C. and Tori. To contact, visit

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