Modern technology let me down in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Finals. Last night, a day and a half long battle with back spasms had me drained, so I just set the DVR to record the Chicago-Tampa Bay game and figured I’d watch this morning before my usual Sunday routine of church and doing the PA at a local amateur baseball game. Bad idea—a storm knocked out power briefly and my recording was wrecked. So today, the blog is just my thoughts on reviewing the boxscore from the Blackhawks’ 2-1 win…
*From the shot totals, it appears the pace was up significantly. Tampa Bay took 32 shots and Chicago fired 29. The margin isn’t noteworthy, but the fact volume was up around 30 is a big uptick. While both teams can play at either pace, it does appear that the edge goes slightly to the Blackhawks at the faster pace and to the Lightning in the grind-it-out game. Since Chicago won this game, it’s not unreasonable to conclude that pace control was the key factor.
*Tampa Bay’s biggest problem though is that Steven Stamkos is disengaged. He only took one shot on goal, and just hasn’t been aggressive throughout the Finals. I’m always tolerant of offensive players not scoring in the postseason, because the goaltending is so good by this point and even in the regular season, nobody averages a goal per game. But the best shooters have to put the puck on net.
Stamkos has just disappeared far too often throughout the playoffs and now is, to put it mildly, not an ideal time for another disappearance. The Blackhawks with the same issues with Patrick Kane, but since it’s Tampa Bay, not Chicago, that is staring into the abyss, it’s Stamkos that draws the focus.
So is the series all but over, with Chicago heading home for Game 6 with a 3-2 series lead? If home ice were the same kind of overriding factor that homecourt is in the NBA, you might say so. But the home team rarely has that kind of definitive edge in the NHL, and what’s more, Tampa Bay has won big games on the road throughout the postseason. Most notably, goaltender Ben Bishop, now back in net, has been better in big games on the road than at home.
I’ll step up and flat-out predict this series is going to a seventh game (you can thank me later Chicago fans), but at the very least, these Finals are anything but over. Get ready for Monday night at 8 PM ET on NBC, when the Cup itself will be in attendance for the first time.