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Three keys for Lightning, Blackhawks to win Game 3

by Dan Rosen

CHICAGO -- Lost in the commotion over the news coming out of the morning skates Monday at United Center is the fact that the keys to victory in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports) for the Tampa Bay Lightning and Chicago Blackhawks won't change regardless of who is in the lineup.

The best-of-7 series is tied 1-1. Here are three keys for each team in order to take a 2-1 lead.


1. Don't worry about the goalie

Even though they played coy, indications are that Ben Bishop will start for the Lightning in Game 3 after leaving Game 2 twice with an apparent injury, including for good for the final 7:41 of the third period. At the time there was a bit of chaos, but the Lightning fought through it, got five saves from Andrei Vasilevskiy and won the game 4-3.

The last thing the Lightning skaters need to concern themselves with is the goalie because once they start worrying about what is going on behind them, they'll lose focus on playing the game in front of them.

If Bishop starts, it'll be normal and all things go. If it's Vasilevskiy, the Lightning need to treat it the same way.

"Whoever is in net, we'll be fine," Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said. "We're not going to change the way we play."

2. Road mentality

Lightning forward Alex Killorn said his team used the mentality it has on the road -- defense first, protect to create chances -- at home in Games 1 and 2. There is merit to that, particularly how the Lightning played in Game 1, but there is no doubt that they need to have that mentality Monday.

"When we've been on the road we've been OK with playing a tight game," Stamkos said. "Whether it's 0-0, 1-1, we just feel comfortable in those situations. We feel if we can keep it tight, that if both teams have minimal scoring chances, we have the talent to score on ours. It's worked."

The stats back up Stamkos' claim that it has worked.

The Lightning are 7-3, including three straight wins, while allowing 16 goals in those 10 games on the road. They haven't allowed a goal on the road since Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Final, when they defeated the New York Rangers 6-2.

Tampa Bay defeated the Rangers 2-0 in Games 5 and 7 at Madison Square Garden. Its shutout streak on the road stands at 145:43.

3. Be aware of matchups; don't get caught up in them

There is a fine line that a road team rides on when it comes to matchups because they are not in control of them. Worry too much and it can take the team out of its rhythm. Don't worry at all and the home team can catch you in a vulnerable position.

"I know some teams if they get a wrong matchup, once they dump it in they try to change and it kind of changes the flow," Killorn said. "You have to come off the bench to a team that's coming up the ice, and that's difficult in a lot of sense too."

That shouldn't be too big of an issue for the Lightning.

Coach Jon Cooper says he's not a big matchups coach even though he was in Games 1 and 2, when he had the last-change advantage. He probably should go back to his original philosophy on the road because he's not going to be in control of the matchups anyway.

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville is splitting up Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane for more balance, which is another way of saying he'd like to make sure one of them doesn't have to play against Victor Hedman all game long. The Lightning should be aware, but not concerned about that.

If Quenneville wants to get Toews' line and Keith on against the "Triplets" line of Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat and Nikita Kucherov, so be it. If Stamkos is going to see a healthy dose of Brent Seabrook, live with it.

"Are we going to get our perfect matchups out there every time? No, we are not," Cooper said. "That's where the challenge comes in for other players. They're going to have to defend. They're going to have to maybe come out of their comfort zone and maybe defend guys they haven't defended before.

"We have four lines, I'm not that worried when another line is out there."


1. Crawford's response

Goalie Corey Crawford shouldered a lot of the blame for the 4-3 loss in Game 2, when he gave up four goals on 24 shots. Two of the goals were scored on deflections and one through a screen, but the goal he allowed Johnson to score is one he definitely should want back.

Crawford clearly needs have a better game Monday. His teammates believe he can. His previous bounce-back performances in the Stanley Cup Playoffs suggest he will.

Crawford is 3-0 with a 1.83 goals-against average and .944 save percentage in his past three games he's played directly after taking a loss in the playoffs. That includes his 60-save performance in Chicago's triple-overtime 3-2 win in Game 2 of the Western Conference Final against the Anaheim Ducks.

He also made 13 saves in relief to win Game 6 of the Western Conference First Round against the Nashville Predators after being benched for Games 3-5. He had eight days to stew on his Game 2 performance, when he gave up six goals on 35 shots, but responded well when he was called upon again.

"Maybe let in a few goals he wasn't happy with [in Game 2], but at the end of the day he's always shown that he's ready to absorb that responsibility," Toews. "Maybe [he takes on an] unfair share of the losses that our team goes through, but he bounces back."

2. Get Kane the puck

There's no question that Kane is better when he has the puck on his stick. That's when he creates plays, does his thing, makes his magic. He has arguably the best hands in the NHL this side of Pavel Datsyuk. He might even be better than Datsyuk at this point.

Kane didn't have a shot on goal in Game 2, ending a streak of 99 straight playoff games in which he did have a shot.

"It's not a stat you like to see, for sure," Kane said.

The Blackhawks need to get the puck to Kane so he can be effective. When he doesn't get it enough he tends to hang on the periphery. That's not good for anyone but the Lightning.

It should be easier for Kane to have the puck more if he is playing with Brad Richards and Bryan Bickell instead of Toews and Brandon Saad.

There is a share-by-committee feel to the game when Kane is with Toews and Saad because they are so good with the puck too. Richards has been looking for Kane for the majority of this season and has done a good job of getting it on his stick.

3. Control the "Triplets"

The Blackhawks will have a better chance to get the matchup they want against the Lightning's "Triplets" line at home than they did on the road because of the last-change advantage.

It stands to reason that they would want Toews' line with Saad and Hossa as well as Keith on them because the best way to defend the "Triplets" is to keep the puck away from them. Keith, Toews, Saad and Marian Hossa are all strong possession players.

Among Chicago's top-four defensemen, Keith is first with a 54.83 shot-attempts percentage (SAT). Hossa is first among Chicago's forwards with a 55.28 SAT in the playoffs. Saad is second at 53.87. Toews is fourth, behind Patrick Sharp, at 53.42.

Johnson and Kucherov scored in Game 2, potentially igniting the line that Johnson admitted played average in Game 1.


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