Whether Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Ben Bishop again plays through his mysterious lower body injury, the Chicago Blackhawks aren’t changing their strategy for Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Finals Wednesday night at the United Center.
Pelting Bishop with shot after shot, 38 total including 18 in the first period, nearly resulted in a victory for the Blackhawks in Game 3, but Tampa Bay prevailed with two goals in the third period for a 3-2 win and 2-1 series lead.
If just one or two more shots went Chicago’s way, they would be ahead rather than facing a potential 3-1 hole before the series shifts back to Tampa Bay.
"I wasn't paying attention to it as much," Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook said to the Chicago Tribune. "I don't know if I just didn't see it or what.
"You want to continue to do the things that we do — get bodies to the net, get pucks there, try to get good looks, get it moving a little bit, shooting pucks."
Bishop would total 36 saves, and the Lightning and head coach Jon Cooper are mum on the 28-year-old’s status and an injury he reportedly sustained in Game 2’s 4-3 loss. Bishop will likely play in Game 4, though he was visibly hurting on the ice. But Cooper could turn to rookie Andrei Vasilevskiy, who filled in for Bishop in stretches in Game 2 and came up with five saves and didn’t allow a goal over nine minutes on the ice.
Overall the series has surrounded Bishop’s injury and the poor play of Chicago keeper Corey Crawford. Allowing seven goals in the last two games, Crawford hasn’t even felt the full wrath of Tampa Bay’s top forwards Tyler Johnson and Nikita Kucherov. Thus far, Crawford has notched just a .899 save percentage.
With only five total shots in the series, Johnson has managed a goal and assist and doesn’t look like the same player who dominated in the first three rounds of the playoffs with 12 total goals and nine assists.
Meanwhile, Kucherov strung together a point in two straight games for the first time in the series, but the Lightning have shown solid resiliency and found a somewhat unlikely hero in second-year center Cedric Paquette. According to the Tampa Bay Times, Paquette failed to make the Lightning roster to start the season and wouldn’t even rent an apartment in the area until the second half of the season.
The Quebec native’s scored a goal in the last two games, including the winner in Game 3, and he’s as surprised as anyone about his recent success.
"(If someone predicted it,) I would have said that, 'He's crazy,' " Paquette said to The Times on Monday. "I really couldn't have predicted that."
Start Time: 8 p.m. ET
TV Channel: NBC Sports Network
Online Stream: NBC Sports Live Extra
Prediction: Chicago over Tampa Bay, 4-2