With the Stanley Cup Final, the NHL’s showpiece event, between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Chicago Blackhawks having just started, Joshua Rotchelle gives us the rundown:
Long ago (last week), in a land far, far away (across the pond), a battle between good and evil (East and West/West and East) has been taking place in the galaxy’s most contested arena (American ice rinks).
That’s right, it’s one of those competitions nobody hears about: Americanada’s NHL has taken to the ice in its yearly competition, as the final for the Stanley Cup, ice hockey’s most esteemed award, has rushed to the fore in a flurry of hard skates and soft skeletons. This year, the Tampa Bay Lightning are thundering against the Chicago Blackhawks for the win, with the first game in the finals going to the latter.
First impressions count, but that proverb is a double-edged sword, and both sides discovered that fact in the first bout of the finals. Tampa Bay dominated the first of the three twenty-minute periods of the game, with an extraordinarily aggressive game that the Blackhawks simply could not hold back. The pressure was constant, and Lightning’s Centre Alex Killorn whacked in a wickedly cheeky goal to bring them the early advantage, to much excitement.
This was an unexpected turn of events; the Blackhawks are known for their highly aggressive game, but the Lightning threw it straight back in their faces, not letting a single shot in. However, the second period saw a paradigm shift for the Lightning. While they still dominated, no goals were scored, and they became progressively more defensive, backing off further and further into their own half of the rink.
By the third period, the tide had fully turned, and the Blackhawks were back at their regular game – pounding their way across the ice in an unstoppable assault. Cold-as-ice 20-year-old rookie Teuvo Teräväinen equalled the score in the last seven minutes of the final period, before Antoine Vermette smacked in the goal that clinched it for the Blackhawks. Not only was this a clutch, last-minute pair of plays, but the shots were knocked in side by side in under 120 seconds.
However, the smart money is not on the ‘Hawks getting too comfy. After all, right up until the end of the game, Tampa Bay gave them an ample run for their money, and Chicago will have to put their best foot – their offensive foot – forward in order to secure this year’s cup, playing to their strengths as a shot-on-goal powerhouse rather than snuggling up in a defensive cocoon. ‘Hawks fans will doubtless claim this is just a minor hiccup, but nobody knows for sure yet.
That said, things look very worrying for Tampa Bay. After all, what was most notable about the game was the fact that Chicago was not playing as it normally does. They didn’t even bring the top of their game, and they still got away with the win, while the Lightning fumbled a chance to shut down a powerful team, having the rug pulled out from under them as they lost all momentum in the final period.
Only the ice will decide, but from this first game, things are looking promising for the Chicago Blackhawks. If the Lightning don’t get their act together and the ‘Hawks start playing like its business as usual, they’ll walk all over their opposition. If nothing else, it’s a good omen for the Blackhawks. As NHL Public Relations has pointed out, the team that wins the first game of the finals also takes the cup 75% of the time.