Lord Stanley will be in the building, the Cup that is. The Madhouse on Madison in Chicago will be a rip-roaring party as fans will wildly cheer on their team to bring that coveted trophy onto the ice, and win a championship at home. The first time since 1938.
There is no denying it, this is defintely the biggest game of the season, and for some players, of their careers.
That last elusive win will be the hardest to get for the Blackhawks since the resilient Tampa Bay Lightning have the will to pull out yet another road win that would force a seventh and deciding game in Tampa on Wednesday night.
Just another game? “No chance,” Tampa head coach Jon Cooper said Monday morning to media. “The Stanley Cup’s in the building. We know it’s not just another game.”
Cooper in pregame interviews knows what they are up against in a possible last game of the season, but in the face of adversity he looked confident: “We’ve been in so many different situations during this playoffs, whether we’ve been up 3-2, or down 3-2 – we’ve gone through this now. People can’t sit here and say ‘the inexperienced Lightning.’ I think we’re the ’Gamer Lightning.’ These guys have gamed out this playoffs, and I expect nothing less than Game 6 in Chicago.”
His confidence could be based on the fact that Ben Bishop was back on the ice in the Monday morning skate, so he’s expected to start Game 6. Many reporters noticed too that he looked a lot more agile and less fragile in Game 5. Outside of his jaw dropping mistake: charging out of the net and running into defenseman Victor Hedman giving up an open net goal – which also ended up being the difference from a tie to a loss – many described his play in Game 5 as flawless.
He told media post-skate that he’s feeling a lot better. The Lightning also got more positive news on Monday as Nikita Kucherov, who crashed into a goalpost with his right shoulder early in Game 5 and did not play the rest of the game, was on the ice for the morning skate. Cooper said Kucherhov is “probable” to play in Game 6.
Whoever will be in the final lineup in tonight’s Game 6 the Bolts have to produce more goals and come up with more rapid offense. In all their losses in this series, they have scored a total of three goals. That’s measly for a team that is known for powerhouse offence and play.
“It starts with me. I’ve got to be better.” – Steve Stamkos
Unbelievably, Captain Steven Stamkos is without a goal in seven straight games, with Kucherov banged up and Tyler Johnson hurting too, Stamkos has to elevate his play and be a captain worthy of lifting that Cup. He obviously knows that already. “No doubt, I want to help our team win in any way possible,” Stamkos said. “We’ve struggled to score, obviously myself personally, as a team the last couple games. We’ll find a way. There’s really no choice that we have. For me, definitely want to go out there and have my best game. I feel like the chances are there. You just got to keep working hard.”
It’s ‘do or die’ for the Lightning and the Blackhawks know that. At home, they will do their best to dominate and take the spark out of Tampa who usually is the team first to score. Tampa Bay will have to continue to start off very fast and strong and net the first goal if they want to overtake Chicago and silence the crowd.
“We have to find a way to score some goals. It starts with me. I’ve got to be better,” Stamkos told reporters.
But if there is a team that is built to combat the emotional dangers of looking too far ahead of a Game 6 and worrying about winning the Cup instead of winning the game, it would the Blackhawks. “Our experience helps us,” Patrick Kane said Monday. “We’ve played in a lot of big situations, a lot of big games helps us in these situations. It has a trickle-down effect from the top position to the bottom.”
“Can’t wait to get back there – use that energy,” Patrick Sharp said of home ice. “I know it filters down through the team.”
Captain Jonathan Toews chimed in too, “I think we always like to think we get better and better as the series goes along. We get into these later games where we have the chance to play these games that are more meaningful, I think that’s when we play our best.”
“Obviously, there’s a lot of buzz, a lot of excitement, a lot of things going on around the entire event,” Toews said. “I think we’re just going to do our best as individuals to focus on our job as players and focus on the game and nothing more. None of that stuff is really going to help us achieve what we want to achieve.”
Will the Blackhawks achieve their goal tonight and dance with Lord Stanley? Because of all their experience, the game-breakers and the overall health of the group, the Blackhawks will most likelty win the series at home Monday night in front of an ecstatic crowd. It will probably be another one-goal game that would extend the Cup Final record to six of them, in what has been a super close and tight series.