The Chicago Blackhawks missed the opportunity to put the Tampa Bay Lightning in a 0-2 hole in the Stanley Cup Finals after falling 4-3 in Saturday’s Game 2, but odds still favor the Blackhawks to win their third title in five years.
Even with the series tied at 1-1, Chicago enters Monday night’s Game 3 at the United Center as a 1.5 goal favorite and they're projected to win the seven-game series in six at 2-1 odds, according to the latest numbers from Sportsbook.ag.
Chicago couldn’t turn its 2-1 victory during Game 1 into an early road sweep against a Lightning squad that’s struggled at home throughout these playoffs, but with a 7-1 home record in the postseason, the Blackhawks could build a 3-1 lead before the series turns back to Tampa Bay for Game 5 Saturday.
The Blackhawks' attack has also gotten the better of Lightning goalie Ben Bishop, a 6-foot-7 hulk who was the top keeper in the postseason before running into Chicago. In the three previous rounds before the Cup Finals, Bishop’s save percentage never averaged out to lower than .900. But after only two games with Chicago, he’s at .889, allowing five goals out of 45 Chicago shots.
However, Tampa Bay’s gone 6-3 on the road thus far, including its dire Game 7 victory over the President’s Trophy-winning New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference Finals and Games 4 and 6 against the Detroit Red Wings in the first round while facing a one-game hole and elimination.
The Lightning also saw their two leading scorers Tyler Johnson and Nikita Kucherov get on the board for the first time in the series during Game 2, with the former picking up his playoff-best 13th goal and the latter his 10th goal and 11th assist.
Despite Bishop's troubles, the Lightning defense has largely shut out Chicago’s top scorers Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews. Together, the duo have just four total shots and one assist in the first two games of the series, with Kane held without a shot in Game 2. That’s a huge decline from their previous production, with Kane responsible for a team-high 10 goals and Toews just behind at nine.
Defenseman Duncan Keith was held without a shot in Game 1 but still managed to get on the board with an assist, which kick-started Chicago’s comeback. But it’s a stark decline for a player that put up 16 assists in the first three rounds of the postseason.
The deeper the series goes seems to be the best chance for Tampa Bay to win their first Cup since 2004. Should the series stretch to a Game 7, which the Lightning have won twice already this season, the odds are at 13-4, just higher than Chicago’s 7-2.
Full Series Odds
Game 3: Chicago -1.5; over/under 5.5 goals
Blackhawks in 6, 2-1
Lightning in 7, 13-4
Blackhawks in 7, 7-2
Blackhawks in 5, 4-1
Lightning in 6, 9-2
Lightning in 5, 8-1
Check out some of Game 2's highlights!