The Chicago Blackhawks have won countless regular season and playoff games and two Stanley Cups over the past five calendar years. On Monday they will try to do something they have done only once during that span: beat the Tampa Bay Lightning in the United Center.
As incredible as that may seem, the Blackhawks went nearly five calendar years before leaving their home ice with a win over the Lightning. Last November’s 3-2 shootout win marked not only the first Blackhawk win at home vs. Tampa Bay since December 13 2009, but their first win against the Bolts, period. Order was restored when the Lightning shut out Chicago, 4-0, on February 27 in Tampa.
Last week’s 2-1 victory in Game 1 marked Chicago’s first success in Amalie Arena since February 17, 2009. It is safe to say that no team has dominated the current group of Blackhawks over that same period. Is their confidence high?
“The Lightning is Chicago’s daddy,” said no intelligent person ever. Yes, Tampa Bay has every reason to be encouraged about their chances of winning the Stanley Cup. They have proven on multiple occasions they can play with this talented and experienced group of Blackhawks. They also bring their “A” game on the road.
Overall, Chicago has won 15 times and Tampa Bay 14 times (and 1-1 in this year’s playoffs) in the Lightning’s 23-year history. Five games ended in ties before the current overtime rules took effect. That is a pretty good record for a relatively young franchise against one of the “Original Six” of Chicago, Montreal, Detroit, Toronto, New York Rangers and Boston.
However, this is the first time Tampa Bay and Chicago have met in the post season, which makes a huge difference. As players, coaches and commentators like to remind, there is hockey and then there is playoff hockey.
It is also wise to remind that Tampa Bay dominated the Montreal Canadiens during this year’s regular season, winning all five games and outscoring Montreal 21-8. That dominance carried over into the playoffs with the Lightning winning in six.
To be sure, the Lightning also dominated the veteran-laden Blackhawks often during the first two games. Still, Chicago stole Game 1 and had a great chance to take a 2-0 lead, before Tampa Bay came back to tie the series.
Neither Tampa Bay nor Chicago is saying much about the Lightning’s recent success. Certainly not Jon Cooper or Joel Quenneville. Cooper is dealing with who will start in goal in Monday’s Game 3 and Quenneville is fielding queries on what it will take to get Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews going.
Despite having a few scoring chances stopped by Hawks’ goalie Corey Crawford, Lightning superstar Steven Stamkos looks to quiet the Chicago crowd by getting one (or more) by Crawford. After all, Stamkos earned his first career hat trick against the Blackhawks (of course) during Chicago’s 2009 win in Tampa, their last before this year’s Game 1. The only thing he would like to do differently this time is win the game.
No, Tampa Bay is not Chicago’s daddy, but they have certainly acted like ugly step sisters toward them.