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Three keys for Blackhawks, Lightning to win Game 2

by Dan Rosen / NHL.com

TAMPA -- There was a buzz Saturday morning at Amalie Arena because of the potential of rookie forward Jonathan Drouin playing for the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final against the Chicago Blackhawks (7:15 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, TVA Sports).

Drouin was told by coach Jon Cooper that he will be skating in warm-ups, something he hasn't done since he last played on May 7 in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Second Round against the Montreal Canadiens.

"[Cooper] told me to prepare like it's a game," said Drouin, the No. 3 pick in the 2013 NHL Draft.

Whether Drouin plays, if Cooper decides to stick with a lineup that features 11 forwards and seven defensemen, or if he goes back to the more traditional lineup of 12 and six, it likely won't change the Lightning's game plan in Game 2. It definitely won't change anything about Chicago's preparation.

The teams have had two full days off to prepare after Chicago won 2-1 in Game 1 to take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-7 series. The coaches have gnawed away at every little detail and they've been asked about them too.

"Both teams kind of tested the waters a little bit, and now we have a little bit better idea of what to expect from their team, and same thing for them," Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews said. "I think you'll probably see a better game overall tonight."

Here are the three keys for each team heading into Game 2:

BLACKHAWKS

1. Generate chances early

The Blackhawks have an opportunity to plant the seed of doubt in the Lightning. They'd be better served if they do it early, because the Lightning, like the Blackhawks, have forwards with quick-strike ability and can put a team away late if they're allowed to hang around.

Chicago was not good early in Game 1 and still survived. It can't bank on that happening again, so it needs to get the puck in deep, get to the cycle game, and get to the front of the net early in Game 2 because it might be enough to make the Lightning vulnerable.

"It's just about matching the effort, wanting the puck and playing with that puck possession early in the game to try to make them sit back and have to defend a little bit more than just being on the attack and doing what they want at will out there," Toews said. "After Game 1 everyone has been talking about that, so it's definitely a focus in our room that we have to start better."

2. Get more from Toews and Kane

The expectation is Toews and Patrick Kane will be great every game whether they play together or apart. They weren't great in Game 1, when the superstar duo combined for no points and four shots on goal. They each played 28 shifts, mainly with each other. Toews won only 10 of 22 faceoffs.

Maybe that's part of the reason why Toews used the words "redeem ourselves" Saturday morning. It's not often you hear a player say something like that after a win. Toews was talking about the team, but it's not unrealistic to think he was also talking about himself and Kane.

Regardless if they're on the same line, Toews and Kane know they need to be more dangerous than they were in Game 1, because for now the Lightning feel confident playing against them, so much so that Tampa Bay center Cedric Paquette said he plans to trash talk Toews in French.

"He'd have big shoes to fill following Ryan Kesler," said Toews, who had to contend with the Anaheim Ducks center in the previous round. "I'm looking forward to hearing some of that."

3. Keep Johnson down

Who knows if Tyler Johnson has run out of steam after such a great first two and a half rounds in the playoffs, but the Blackhawks can't give the diminutive Lightning center any time and space to get going in Game 2 because it doesn't take much for him to be a huge difference maker.

Johnson has no goals in his past five games after scoring 12 in the first 16. He was limited to one shot on goal and won only six of 15 faceoffs in Game 1.

LIGHTNING

1. Get Stamkos on the ice more

There has been a lot made of captain Steven Stamkos' ice time in Game 1. He played 17:17 over 20 shifts. He also served a penalty when the Lightning were called for too many men on the ice and wasn't on the ice for the last 51 seconds of the game, when coach Jon Cooper pulled goalie Ben Bishop to try for the 6-on-5 goal.

Cooper got testy at his press conference Saturday when he was pressed on the issue of giving Stamkos more ice time.

"Should I just play him the whole game, all 60?" Cooper asked rhetorically.

Steven Stamkos
Center - TBL
GOALS: 7 | ASST: 10 | PTS: 17
SOG: 57 | +/-: 3
Clearly no, but it does seem odd that five Lightning forwards played more than Stamkos in Game 1. Part of that has to do with the fact Tampa Bay had to kill six minutes in penalties and Stamkos doesn't kill penalties, but it's still a low number for the Lightning's hottest scorer coming into the series.

Perhaps the better move would be to use Stamkos in a double-shifting role, which would be possible if Cooper again dresses 11 forwards and seven defensemen. However, if Drouin plays the Lightning might go with the more traditional 12-and-six lineup.

Even though his ice time was somewhat low in Game 1, Stamkos had five shots on goal and eight shot attempts. He was on the ice for Alex Killorn's goal. It's not as if he played a bad game with the minutes he got.

"He had some good chances," Cooper said. "He had that great look in the second period with a minute and a half left and Crawford made a great save. The more he shoots the better he is. Clearly, [Stamkos] is a big part of our team, if not the biggest part of our team. I always say when Victor Hedman is rolling and Steven Stamkos is rolling, the Tampa Bay Lightning are rolling."

2. 'D' needs to be aggressive

Lightning defenseman Anton Stralman said it's easy to tell when the team is on its game and capable of generating chances. It happens when the defensemen are involved in the offense.

"A lot of offense comes from our 'D' and forwards going deep into the zone and moving the puck low to high," Stralman said. "When we're at our best I think we're moving around a lot."

Part of that movement is the defensemen pinching deep into the zone to keep pucks alive in a cycle game. The Lightning did a lot of that early in Game 1, but stopped doing it as the game wore on and they erroneously tried to protect a lead instead of build on it.

They need their defensemen involved in the play to create more scoring chances. That has to be a focus in Game 2.

3. Production from the 'Triplets'

This was also mentioned above in discussing Johnson alone, but it can't be stressed enough because if the Lightning aren't going to get secondary scoring, which they haven't gotten all playoffs, they won't win if their best scoring line is also shut down.

That's what happened in Game 1, when the Blackhawks held Johnson, Nikita Kucherov and Ondrej Palat off the score sheet and limited them to two shots on goal. Kucherov didn't have any shots on goal.

The Lightning have survived with two lines doing the majority of their scoring, but their chances of beating the deep Blackhawks diminishes greatly if they become a one-line team.

The "Triplets" line of Johnson, Kucherov and Palat had 28 of Tampa Bay's 55 goals in the first three rounds.

"As the playoffs go on it gets harder to score, but our line, right now, we're playing just average," Johnson said. "We're not doing as well as we should. We know that. So it's time for us to step up."

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