The Tampa Bay Lightning the been the kind of team that has bounced back all season long, and now it is mandatory that they do it once again if they are going to extend their season one more game. The Lightning don’t necessarily have to catch “lightning in a bottle,” so to speak, but they have to get a little more offense going from some of the usual suspects and they might have a chance to force a Game 7 on their home ice. First things first, and that means they have to win at the United Center on Monday night (8 PM ET) against the Chicago Blackhawks, who are trying to win a clinching game in their own building for the first time since 1938.
On Saturday the Hawks moved one step closer to their third championship in six seasons with the 2-1 victory, and that was the third time they beat Tampa Bay in this series by that score. All five games in the Stanley Cup Finals have been decided by one goal. So as we expect more thrills and chills in Game 6, let’s keep in mind that BetAnySports customers have the opportunity to wager on this game, including a number of different props, while the action is in progress, through the facilities of Live Betting Extra.
Patrick Sharp had been much-maligned, not only for the back-to-back penalties he committed in Game 3, the second of which led to Tampa Bay’s winning goal, but also his own scoring drought, which had lasted 13 games. But then there was a stroke of luck, as two behemoths clashed on the ice to the Lightning’s detriment. Goaltender Ben Bishop, who has been the focus of much controversy during the series for his “mystery injury,” ventured much too far out of the pipes for the purposes of clearing a loose puck, but then bumped into his outstanding defenseman, Victor Hedman. When players 6-foot-7 and 6-foot-6 collide like that, somebody’s going to get bruised, and, well, egos were bruised more than anything else, as Sharp gathered a loose puck and had “nothing but net,” as they say. That was the first goal of the game, and even though Tampa Bay tied it up in the second stanza, Chicago got the winner from Antoine Vermette shortly into the third period.
In the Stanley Cup odds for the potentially clinching Game 6, as they are posted at BetAnySports, the Blackhawks are big favorites:
Chicago Blackhawks -170
Tampa Bay Lightning +150
Over five goals -135
Under five goals +115
Nikita Kucherov is reportedly feeling much better after suffering an injury due to a collision with the goalpost on Saturday. His presence could be a real key to what Tampa Bay wants to do on offense, because he is part of the “Triplets” line, which also includes Tyler Johnson, who has suddenly gone cold in the playoffs. Johnson came into this final series as the leading goalscorer in the entire post-season, but he has now scored just one goal in his last eight games. But that is nothing like the slump Steven Stamkos has gone through. Stamkos not only led the Lightning in scoring this season, he was second in the entire NHL in goals scored, but he hasn’t done that in HIS last eight games. These guys have to wake up for something to happen, as Tampa Bay can’t keep depending on its third and fourth lines for offensive spark.
BetAnySports patrons have to give Corey Crawford all the credit in the world, as he has held the Lightning to just 10 goals in five games. To think that Crawford actually lost his job temporarily during the series with Nashville, one may suspect coach Joel Quenneville pulled a masterstroke of psychology by benching him and letting him think about it.
As for Bishop, all of a sudden there is in so much “doubt” about his availability, as this team needs all hands on deck and can’t afford to play more head games at press conferences. Jon Cooper is going through his first post-season, and perhaps he learns some lessons along the way. Tampa Bay has not lost three games in a row all season long, and this certainly would not be the place to do it for the first time.
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By Charles Jay