This is the definition of a close
They've each scored nine goals and had 11 power plays, with Chicago holding a 2-1 edge in power-play goals. Each team has blocked 60 shots. Neither has led by more than one goal in any game.
As players enjoyed a break Thursday before preparing for Game 5, to be played Saturday at Amalie Arena, they paid respect to each other's efforts in getting to this point.
"It's really tough for either team to separate themselves from the other in any of these games, which makes for entertaining hockey games," Chicago center
Lightning associate coach Rick Bowness, substituting for Coach Jon Cooper at a news conference in Tampa, said the Final has been so close because the teams have different strengths that are similarly valued.
"What we lack in their Stanley Cup experience and gold medals at the Olympics we make up for in our youthful enthusiasm and speed," Bowness said. "For either one of us to think we're going to go out there and control 60 minutes of the game, this is my opinion, I just don't see it happening.
"You have to give credit to both teams. We're good hockey clubs. We're not going to let them play their game for 60 minutes. They're not going to let us play our game for 60 minutes. I'm not surprised."
The element of surprise comes from both teams' getting little scoring from some of their biggest offensive threats.
Chicago forwards Marian Hossa,
"These guys are way better than anybody imagined at checking and trying to frustrate you," said Blackhawks forward
Tampa Bay has gotten no goals from
"I expect more from myself. Hopefully the chances keep coming. You know eventually they're going to go," Stamkos said. "No one said this was going to be easy. It's not easy to win the Stanley Cup. You put so much sacrifice, so much time, so much effort, it's really a mental grind and a test of everyone's will, what their sacrifice is at this time of the year."
To continue the parallels, each team has been able to make the most of its depth. Tampa Bay goalie
The Blackhawks couldn't play defenseman
When two teams are so competitive at such a high level, the difference could come down to one break, one bounce, one battle along the boards. "The fact that nobody's had a two-goal lead after four games speaks volumes about what we're talking about here," Blackhawks Coach Joel Quenneville said. "Hey, it's fast, it's quick, it can be unpredictable. It's two good hockey teams going at it. I think whether it's going to be a great save or a great play, you know, a fluky goal, I know both teams leave it out there."