All four games have been tied or within one goal entering the final five minutes of regulation. By next Wednesday, one team will be lifting the Stanley Cup – and it is safe to say the difference in such a tight series, with so little to distinguish one team from the other, could be pure simple luck – good or bad.
“It’s really tough for either team to separate themselves from the other in any of these games, which makes for entertaining hockey,” Blackhawks’ captain Jonathan Toews said Thursday. “It’s just going to come down to who wants it more and who’s going to fight and work for those bounces. I think both teams feel pretty confident it’s going to go their way.”
It was a peaceful morning at the United Center, no one practising because of the two days off between games. The ice was covered up, the rock band Rush was scheduled to play a concert later in the evening, and the Blackhawks were enjoying the chance to rest and regroup.
No one wanted to acknowledge, speak of or otherwise concede that fatigue could be a factor now that both teams are in their ninth month of work, though the Blackhawks didn’t look nearly as crisp Wednesday as they had earlier in the playoffs.
The Blackhawks’ Duncan Keith logged another 29-plus minutes Wednesday and his total ice time in these playoffs, 655 minutes 55 seconds, is nearly 82 minutes ahead of the next closest player, Tampa’s Victor Hedman, at 574:02. Keith generates so much offence from defence, but he looks as though he’s trying to play within himself more than he did in the previous round.
Logically, if anybody can make the difference offensively, it’ll be either Chicago’s Patrick Kane or Tampa’s Steven Stamkos, two freakishly talented scorers who’ve been quiet in the final, and not getting any of those aforementioned bounces.