NHL: Chicago Blackhawks at Tampa Bay Lightning

Borders And Boundaries: Tampa Special Teams And Matchups

Have to thank the girlfriend for providing the Less Than Jake reference, because I’m not a fan but we need to vary it from Against Me! and Tom Petty. Like once or twice.

So we’ve got to wrap up this preview, and cover the special teams for Tampa and how it all plays out. Let’s get to it.

Special Teams

Tampa Power Play – The Lightning’s biggest chance to get really into this series and win it is right here. The Bolts put up seven power play goals against the Rangers, though not all of them meant much. The Hawks’ kill hasn’t exactly been great, but it’s been timely. The Ducks’ power play goals in the last two games came after the Hawks already had a big lead, and that’s sort of what they’ve done since the first round. They’ve gotten the kills they need to. But this is probably as dangerous a power play as they’ve seen.

You already know about Stamkos setting up his Doomsday Gun from the left circle in a 1-3-1 formation, with Stralman running things from the point. But the Bolts’ PP has evolved from just that, playing off teams cheating towards Stamkos, Not that the Hawks shouldn’t be keenly aware of Stamkos from there, as he’s scored plenty against the Hawks from that spot. However, with Kucherov, Johnson, and Palat manning the other spots and their creativity, the Bolts get a lot of movement and creativity going which can become a real problem. They don’t really have the behemoth in front of the net that the Hawks have struggled with in the past. Callahan and Killorn make a fist of it but these are not huge guys. If the Hawks cheat too much to their right to block Stamkos, the man in the high slot is going to have an awful lot of room for high-tips or shots himself. There is a drop off to the second unit, but Jason Garrison resided there and he has a huge shot himself from the point. Filppula isn’t the playmaker that the Triplets are (we need a new name for them stat!) but isn’t bereft of dash either. The Hawks have to keep a lid on this power play, otherwise they’re going to leave a lot of work for themselves at even-strength.

Penalty Kill – There is some danger here too, Sheri, if Cooper sends out more of his weapons on the kill. The Hawks have trouble with serious high pressure when they’re on the power play, and the Ducks and others certainly fashioned more than enough chances while shorthanded without cashing in. The main forward for the Lightning on the kill is Brian Boyle however, along with Pacquette and Filppula. Boyle’s reach and size does clog up shooting lanes, but the Hawks should be able to maneuver pucks and feet around him as he doesn’t move that well. This is where Coburn and Carle and Garrison and Sustr are effective, because they are all big and really clog up lanes and clear the net. The Lightning want to force the Hawks to the boards where they can get multiple guys in the lane, so the Hawks will have to make the tip of the Lightning’s diamond-kill move so that they can get to the middle of the ice and open things up. If the Hawks are getting shots from Keith and Seabrook and Sharp from right in the middle, they’re going to get real chances. If they’re counting on Toews and Kane to get looks curling around the circles, that’s where things are going to go stale.

It’s when Palat, Johnson, and Killorn flip over the boards on the kill, because they can really force at the points and any turnover or mistake is going to result in breaks the other way the Hawks can’t catch. With the Hawks only generally leaving one man up top, they’re real susceptible to giving up shorthanded rushes and against this team that’s going to be doom.

How It All Plays Out

Or as near as I can figger it. I don’t think tonight will see Quenneville get as match-y up-y as he was in Game 7. I think he’s going to want to see what Cooper is chasing with the last change before he decides what to do. So obviously, we’ll see Johnson’s and Filppula’s line out against Vermette and Richards as much as they can get. When thing get back to the UC, that’s when Q can play this how he wants and get his best against the Lightning’s best.

When that happens, it’s hard to see how the Lightning have enough. They want to play the same game, carry the puck in but the Hawks love to stand up at their blue line and deny that. The Lightning don’t want to have to give the puck up, and they’re going to have to be really focused on putting dumps and chips in Seabrook’s and Hjalmarsson’s corner otherwise Keith and Oduya will skate it out all day long. The Lightning can win a lot of those races but they don’t have the size to make the Hawks cough it up consistently like the Ducks did at times.

If the Lightning aren’t precise at the Hawks’ line, it’s going to put their bottom four D in serious trouble they won’t survive. If the Hawks can turn the play around at their line and rush at Coburn, Carle, Sustr, and Garrison with speed and numbers, you can forget it. The Hawks can beat them to the outside or get to the puck first down low and when they start cycling and moving those four are going to be chasing shadows. Give the Hawks enough possession for a long enough time… All. Goalies. Break.

And that’s to me why the Hawks are going to win this. Unless the Lightning’s top six and/or power play goes nuclear, they don’t have enough to combat the Hawks’ bottom six. The Lightning don’t even really have a bottom six. And with Toews, Hossa, Saad being excellent two-way forwards, it’s hard to imagine the Lightning’s top six is going to massively outplay the Hawks’.

Hawks in 6.

  • Andrew Heitman

    This is a half baked theory-

    But I really think Q plays with a “I have 7 games to win 4” mentality. He doesnt push and sweat every win, and he wants to poke and prod the opponent until he gets to a spot where we wheel out Kane-Toews-Saad and stand on their throat. Its an almost scientific approach, change one variable at a time until he gets the 4 win combination.

    Its also very similar to how we approaches the regular season- he knows he has the talent to make it to the playoffs, push early for points, then I dunno- fuck it right? Last minute down by one against a division rival (MN) staring down the barrel of a WC spot…Rundblad Rosival on the ice…Because he doesnt want to tip his hand to what hes got in the playoffs.

    He knows how long the road is, knows he has a talent cushion to fall back on, and will use as much of the roads as he can because it doesnt get anyone all geeked up (see Boudreau and Anaheim). Forcing everyones best punch early in a season/series gives the upper hand to the Hawks. This strategy only works with the embarrassment of riches the Hawks have…maybe why its hasnt played out until now for Q.

    • Bob in EP

      The events of recent seasons certainly support your theory.

    • WookRN

      Possible (hell, likely even), but this can spell trouble as well.

      • Andrew Heitman

        To be clear- in no way do I subscribe to this theory as a “best practice”. I am just looking for reasons why:
        1) Huge point grab early in the season
        2) Weird roster moves late in the season when points are more important
        3) Strange happenings in playoff series- why Q might prefer not to have home ice at first

        • WookRN

          To be clear (I’ll be clear back damn it!!!)- I agree with everything you said.
          And your response.

          There may be something to be said for the surgical poke in the first game or so, but as you pointed out, that’s troubling during an 82 game season where you seem to have everything you need to make the Presidents Cup, instead of being a wild card with less than 2 weeks to go. Whatever. LETS GO HAWKS!

          • Oldfarthawkfan

            Less than 30% of Presidents Cup winners win the Stanley Cup,

          • jhb

            One of the weirdest false narratives, that the President’s trophy is some kind of deterrent to winning the SC. Every team would take that success rate in a field of 16. But the optics of the overall top seed losing in any round, save the finals, overshadows the fact that the lower seeds probably have a worse success rate.

          • Oldfarthawkfan

            Last team to do it was the 2013 Hawks, the strike shortened regular season that was more like a sprint than a marathon, Before that the 2007-2008 Wings, then you had to go back to 2001 pre salary cap. So post Salary Cap era, it goes down to less than 20%

          • jhb

            Again, I have to say, that 1-in-5 odds is still better than any of the other seeds. But no matter, really. Chicago has clearly ditched the notion they need to scratch, claw and fight for any kind of home ice in the regular season because they’re confident they can win anywhere.

          • ‘hawks58

            Mathematically, each team has just over a 6% chance of winning the Cup, so just under 20% would mean President’s Trophy winners are more than 3x as likely to win the Cup as a ‘typical’ playoff team.

            Pretty good odds if you ask me.

            The problem with the President’s Trophy vs Stanley Cup in a marathon of a season is that the best teams almost always coast at times, choosing to save energy in the middle months, and hope to swing back into form around March.

          • WookRN

            Guessing that means more than 20% do….?

          • Andrew Heitman

            At the very least, we are all clear. So thats…thats something

    • Matt

      I’ve wondered the same thing, and honestly, I kind of even like it. However, I still then have two gripes:

      1. It looks like they’re starting with the Nuclear Option (20-19-88) in game one. I don’t like this, as it’s probably one of their best weapons. I say save it.

      2. Despite the tinkering, Q doesn’t seem to give a long leash to several youngsters. The regular season doldrums is exactly the time for this type of stuff, yet Q seems to avoid it. Here’s to hoping he adjusts next year when he’s forced to.

      • Andrew Heitman

        Yeah, I agree- especially with #2.

        If the points dont matter, jam Runblad along side Keith/Hammer or something. Bring up some plug and give him 10 minutes next to a veteran center.

      • I kind of agree with point #1. See how things go playing it ‘straight’ for a bit, then pull out the nuclear option if need be. I’d rather have it in the back pocket if things stagnate in the early part of the series. The boys really seem to respond to it when it’s a ‘break glass in case of emergency’ situation.

    • CurvedBlade

      The hawks only need to win 1 road game to flip the home ice advantage. The pressure is on Tampa to win the first 2. That said, with no finals experience they will be over excited, and will come out in a blaze of energy. Q knows this. The hawks just have to weather the first period “storm” and the game will settle down in their favor.

      It’s not that Q doesn’t want to win every game. It’s that these are not must win games. He can afford to dodge a few punches and look for weaknesses.

      • Andrew Heitman

        Well- that’s sort of my point. People will say that every game is a must win in the playoffs. For some teams it is.

  • Oregon_hawk

    The Three Amigos, the Three Stooges… The Musketeers….

    • Jordan

      The orphans. It’s gotta be kinda mean.

      • Dangles-a-Plenty

        I vote this

    • ‘hawks58

      I like The Three Amigos. The ‘Triplets’ line when they face El Guapo (Keith) tonight – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EzZ7UGZETxo

    • CurvedBlade

      How about the trippers, as in they’re clumsy or high on drugs?

      I also like the 3 stooges, funny because of being low IQ bums.

  • Hags

    since we’re full steam ahead on the Petty references, why not the Refugee Line? Refugee was on Damn the Torpedoes, Petty’s 3rd album (a nod to the number 3 and the “Triplets”). it has Tyler Johnson who in a way was a hockey refugee who found a home in TB, and that line really ain’t a big secret all the same.

  • Matt

    Since the Hawks started winning cups, has anyone’s 1st or 2nd line really given them fits in the playoffs? I feel like we’re good at shutting down stellar offensive lines, which gives me confidence against Tampa.

    • Jim

      LA Kings

      • ZigZags82

        Williams and Carter do not play on the same line as Kopitar. Kopitar is your first center and Williams is a 3rd line winger.

        You’re thinking of Pearson, Carter, and Toffoli. Carter is the 2nd center.

        But yeah lol.

      • Matt

        Yeah, I remember their line giving us fits, but I think that was their 3rd line, not 1st or 2nd. That’s a testament to the Kings’ depth (similar to the Hawks this year) but I still don’t remember any traditionally offensively studly lines wreaking havoc on the Hawks.

  • Brandon Murray

    In the beginning I said Hawks over Preds in 6 (correct), Hawks over Wild in 5 (almost there), and Hawks over Ducks in 6 (so wrong). I’m not taking this TB team for granted, but I’ll go Hawks in 6. I envision it looking somethinglike this:
    Split in TB for games 1 & 2
    Sweep games 3 & 4 at the UC
    Drop game 5 in OT
    Bury them in game 6 and lift the Cup at the UC in front of thousands of rabid Madhouse fans.
    Of course this core seems to like lifting the Cup on the road as they did in Philly and Boston so who knows.
    I’d love to get the split tonight and set the tone. Bishop can be broken. If Rinne, Dubnyk, and Andersen can be rattled, so can Big Ben.
    Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews will do Kane and Toews things. Keith and Seabs will be solid as usual, but I think everyone is spot on with the lower lines. I think Vermette, Sharp, Teuvo, Shaw, Kruger and Richards come up huge in this series.
    Almost time! Let’s Go Hawks!

  • Jim

    Big Rangers fan Boomer Esiasen (I know) on the score today saying that Tampa broke down against the Rangers when they tried to open it up. He said that when the Lightning tried the run and gun, the Rangers started dropping bombs on Bishop, and that exposed Bishop as not that good. Bishop has given up 5,5 and 7 goals to the Rangers. He said the Rangers were shut down when the Bolt defense stayed at home and boxed around Bishop (sounds like Anaheim in Games 1-5).

    I was surprised to hear this, because I thought the opposite was true. If this is the case, the Hawks are sending 4 waves in, and whoever matches up against the Bolts bottom pairs should do some bum slaying. The Rangers don’t have the firepower the Hawks have.

  • Research Analysis

    I don’t see Tampe being in the same league as the Hawks. They were awful in long stretches in the first three rounds, especially vs. the Rangers, and are only the best of the weaker conference. I think it is a blowout from start to a very quick finish.

    Thanks to TCI for the great pre-series analysis, easily the best read out there.

    • ‘hawks58

      In a 7 game series, anything can happen. Hopefully, the Hawks can win one of the 2 games this week and then go from there.

  • cza

    “You already know about Stamkos setting up his Doomsday Gun from the left circle…”

    Luckily, Seabrook keeps this in his pocket: