Blackhawks say they're not getting ahead of themselves
Of all the big games the current crop of Chicago Blackhawks have played and had success in, might Monday night be the biggest of them all?
And the list of reasons is a long one as the Hawks look to close out the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup final.
For starters, they will be attempting to cement the legacy of a modern-day NHL dynasty with a third Cup in the past six seasons, a concept thought to be unheard of in the league's salary cap era.
Then there is the idea of winning it all in Chicago for the first time since 1938, a notion that has the sports savvy city salivating at the prospect.
“It’s special,” Hawks forward Patrick Kane said on Monday morning following what he hopes will be his team’s final game-day skate of the season. “We’ve played in a lot of meaningful hockey games.
“I don’t want to say it’s something we’re accustomed to and something we’re used to, but I think we’re fortunate to be in these situations and I think we’ve worked hard for it too. I think it’s something we all deserve.”
The Hawks are trying not to get too far ahead of themselves — for good reason, given that with five one-goal games, this has been the closest Cup final in history. Each of Chicago’s three wins so far have come by 2-1 scores.
“It’s a big game and we haven’t won s--- yet,” Hawks defenceman Kimmo Timonen said.
The Lightning, meanwhile, will be bidding to force a Game 7 back in Tampa on Wednesday. The Lightning have faced elimination three times already this post-season — Games 6 and 7 vs. Detroit in the opening round and Game 7 vs. the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference final.
“The Stanley Cup is in the building, we know it’s not just another game,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said Monday morning. “Somehow, someway, these guys have found a way to draw a line in the sand and say ‘no more’ (when facing elimination.)”
The Lightning will be looking to bust out of a scoring slump that has seen them held to just one goal in each of the past two games. Cooper said forward Nikita Kucherov, the second leading score in the playoffs who was injured in Game 5, is probable to return to the lineup.
Tampa goaltender Ben Bishop, who has also been nursing an injury in the series, said he felt better on Monday than he did prior to Saturday’s Game 5 loss.
While massive games have been old hat to the Hawks, the Lightning feel that over the past two months they have forged their own identity as playoff-hardened competitors.
“At this point, I don’t think you can say we are the inexperienced Lightning,” Cooper said. “We’re a pretty hungry group.”
Who will win Game 6 of the Stanley Cup?