It makes no difference to the Chicago Blackhawks whether it's Ben Bishop or Andrei Vasilevskiy in goal for the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday night at Amalie Arena for Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final.
The teams split the first four games, with each winning once on the other team's home ice.
The Blackhawks might have to make a minor adjustment or two, primarily because Bishop—who missed Game 4 because of an undisclosed injury--is a better puck-handler than Vasilevskiy. But Chicago players and Coach Joel Quenneville said Saturday their mission and game plan will remain the same no matter which goalie is their target. And it didn’t bother them that the Lightning remained mum about its starter Saturday morning.
"It's all part of the process at this time of year," right wing Patrick Kane said after the Blackhawks’ morning skate. "We don’t expect them to say a day earlier, the morning of a skate, who will be in net. And we do some of that too. It’s always part of the process.
"We’ll get here tonight and we’ll focus on getting ourselves ready and come in after warmups and see who’s starting for them. It doesn’t really change too much. We know they’re probably going to choose the better option for what’s better for their team, so we don’t tend to worry about that too much. Both goalies, we pretty much have the same game plan against. Get the traffic in front, get the point shots, try to get rebounds, try to do one-timers, things like that, so it doesn’t matter who’s in net."
Quenneville said the uncertainty over the Lightning’s starter will not affect how he prepares his team for Game 5.
"We can't control that. So whoever's in net, we'll talk about that goalie and go from there," Quenneville said.
Winger Patrick Sharp had the same approach.
“Both guys in there are great goaltenders, so I don’t think it really matters who we’re shooting on,” he said. “As a shooter, you try to get to the net, disrupt traffic, shoot the puck where the goalie isn’t. Nothing really changes from my standpoint.
“I don’t really do too much homework on goaltenders, to be honest with you. I focus on getting it to the net and shooting where I see open net.”
Sharp, who has gone 13 games without scoring a goal, was on the left side with Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa in Chicago’s morning skate. The other lines were Brandon Saad-Brad Richards-Kane; Kris Versteeg-Antoine Vermette-Teuvo Teravainen; and Andrew Desjardins-Marcus Kruger-Andrew Shaw. Quenneville mixed up his lines considerably in Game 4, and he’s likely to mix them up again if he doesn’t get the offensive pressure and production he seeks.
According to the NHL, the team that has won Game 5 after a split of the opening four contests of the Final has gone on to win the Cup 16 of 23 times (69.6%) since the best-of-seven format was adopted in 1939. However, the team that has lost Game 5 has rebounded to win the series in four of the past seven occasions, all since 2001. Those teams were the 2001 Colorado Avalanche against the New Jersey Devils, the 2004 Lightning against the Calgary Flames, the 2009 Pittsburgh Penguins against the Detroit Red Wings, and the 2011 Boston Bruins against the Vancouver Canucks.
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