For additional insight into the Tampa Bay Lightning and Chicago Blackhawks during the Stanley Cup Final, NHL.com has enlisted the help of Dave Farrish to break down the action. Farrish will be checking in throughout the series.
Farrish was an assistant coach for the Anaheim Ducks and Toronto Maple Leafs from 2005-14. He won the Stanley Cup with the Ducks in 2007. He also coached 1,027 games in the minor leagues, including the American Hockey League. In addition, Farrish, a former defenseman, played 430 games in seven seasons in the NHL.
The matchup battle that is turning into a chess match in the Stanley Cup Final between Lightning coach Jon Cooper and Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville has piqued Farrish's interest to the point where he thinks it could be a determining factor in the outcome of Game 3 on Monday at United Center (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).
Farrish is curious to see how or if Quenneville will try to take advantage of the last-change advantage he is afforded being the home coach, particularly as it pertains to center Jonathan Toews and the potential to get away from the matchup with Lightning center Cedric Paquette and the defense pair of Anton Stralman and Victor Hedman.
Hedman, Stralman and Paquette, along with his linemates Ryan Callahan and J.T. Brown, have won the battle against Toews' line in the first two games. For the majority of the time, Toews' line also featured Patrick Kane, but it likely will be Brandon Saad and Marian Hossa as Toews' wings to start Game 3.
Farrish's question is if Cooper starts the majority of the faceoffs in Tampa Bay's defensive zone with Paquette's line along with Hedman and Stralman, will Quenneville counter with Toews' line, or will he keep him off the ice to get away from the matchup?
Farrish said Quenneville could decide to throw caution to the wind and put Toews' line on the ice for the offensive zone faceoff because that's what he'd normally do regardless of the opponent. Or, Farrish said Quenneville could wait, put out a different line, and hope they keep the puck in the zone enough to tire out the Lightning's best checkers and top defense pair so when they change, Toews and his linemates can come on and take advantage.
"That really becomes the chess match when you start putting your checking line out there to try to keep Toews' line off the ice, especially in Chicago's offensive zone," Farrish said.
Also playing a role in this is Quenneville's potential desire to put Toews' line on Tampa Bay's "Triplets" line of Tyler Johnson, Nikita Kucherov and Ondrej Palat. Farrish said he thinks that is a matchup Quenneville will look for and it could play to Chicago's advantage because the best way to neutralize the "Triplets" is to make them play defense.
Toews, Saad and Hossa are strong possession players.
From the Lightning perspective, the more Cooper plays Paquette means the less he likely will play the "Triplets" and the line featuring Steven Stamkos, Valtteri Filppula and Alex Killorn. Farrish said that's not necessarily a bad thing if he can get a favorable matchup and Paquette's line is doing the job.
Farrish said he thinks that's why Stamkos' ice time was relatively low in Game 1 at 17:17. He played 18:46 in Game 2.
"If they can handle those minutes, it's a bonus for the other two lines because those other two lines don't need a lot of minutes to score a goal," Farrish said.
The problem for Cooper is it should be hard to get a favorable matchup because he doesn't have the last-change advantage. Farrish also said he thinks if Cooper gets too caught up in the matchup game it could be a detriment to the rhythm and pace he wants his team to establish.
"If they start tinkering too much and start playing with it then it kind of takes away from your offense," Farrish said. "For me, it has a tendency to slow the game down."
The other wrinkle that Farrish thought of is the potential of Quenneville re-uniting Kane and Toews during the game to try to get both of them away from Hedman.
If Kane and Toews are on separate lines, one of them likely will be facing Tampa Bay's best defenseman for the majority of the game.
"I don't think he minds Kane with Toews together as long as it's not against Hedman," Farrish said. "I don't think he'd mind coming back with Hossa against Hedman at some point because he can at least do some things with controlling the puck in the offensive zone. Obviously you'd, like to have your third or fourth line go against Hedman and Stralman, but that will be the interesting part of it."
Farrish said Hossa is better suited than Kane to keep the puck away from Hedman because of his size.
"Playing Hedman is much the same when you play a guy like Zdeno Chara in Boston," Farrish said. "He's got such a huge reach and he covers so much ground that you want to keep your smaller, skilled, and even your larger, skilled guys away from him as much as possible because he can control the game with his stick, his reach, his ability, and Hedman has quickness too.
"It will be interesting to see how it develops. That's the chess match."