BLACKHAWKS at LIGHTNING
TV: NBC, CBC, TVA Sports
Best-of-7 series is tied 2-2
TAMPA -- The 2015 Stanley Cup Final between the Chicago Blackhawks and Tampa Bay Lightning is already one of the closest series in Stanley Cup Playoff history, and there's no reason to think that will change in Game 5 at Amalie Arena on Saturday.
Each of the first four games were decided by one goal. Neither team has led by more than one goal, and each has scored a total of nine goals.
"There's very little margin for error," Tampa Bay defenseman Matt Carle said. "Both teams are here because of the way they handle adversity, the things we've been through. [It] seems like every time a team makes a push, the other team responds."
Going by the trend, it's the Lightning's turn to respond after losing Game 4 at United Center 2-1 on Wednesday despite playing strong defensively in front of rookie goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy. Injured starter Ben Bishop took the morning skate Saturday and is a possibility, but the Lightning are comfortable with their play regardless of which goalie is in net.
The Lightning's strong forechecking and smothering defensive effort has frustrated the Blackhawks for long stretches in all four games, and the plan is to dish out more of the same. Backed by the strong play of goalie Corey Crawford in their two victories, the Blackhawks can say the same for their defense.
"What we lack in their Stanley Cup experience and gold medals at the Olympics, we make up for in our youthful enthusiasm and speed," Lightning associate coach Rick Bowness said. "For either one of us to think we're going to go out there and control 60 minutes of the game, this is my opinion, I just don't see it happening. There are moments in each of the four games that we were in control of it, and there are moments, like the second period [Wednesday] night, that they were in control of it. You have to give credit to both teams. We're good hockey clubs."
Should the Blackhawks win, they will have the opportunity to clinch the series in Game 6 at home, which would be a first in the organization's modern era. They clinched each of their past two championships on the road, in 2010 and 2013, but the Blackhawks know they can't start looking ahead too much.
"There are moments where you let yourself daydream," captain Jonathan Toews said. "All of a sudden you catch yourself getting ahead of yourself. You need to snap back to right here, right now. Coming into the series, coming into Game 1, maybe sometimes you were a little too excited, knowing that you're near the end of the finish line. But I think going through this series, we've done a good job of just focusing on the next task, especially [Wednesday] night. We'll do the same thing in the next one."
Bishop's status remained up in the air, but given Cooper's comments Friday his chances of playing seemed possible when he came out for the morning skate Saturday.
"I don't know sitting here today if Ben Bishop is playing on Saturday," Cooper said. "I hope he plays. I don't know if he's going to. He's got to get back on the ice. If he's not in the pregame skate tomorrow that's a pretty good indication of whether he's going to play or not."