Big stars held in check so far in Stanley Cup
CHICAGO (AP) — One point. That is the combined total for Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Steven Stamkos through two games of the Stanley Cup Final.
The biggest stars for the Blackhawks and Lightning are looking to break out with the deadlocked series shifting to Chicago for Game 3 on Monday night.
Toews’ third-period assist in Chicago’s 4-3 loss to Tampa Bay on Saturday night was the 100th career playoff point for the captain — and his first of the final. Kane, who played alongside Toews for much of the first two games, failed to register a shot on goal in Game 2. Stamkos, the captain of the Lightning, is scoreless in his last four games.
The winner of the series very well could be the team that gets one of those scorers going.
“I mean, as an offensive guy, you want to be helping produce, especially at this time of year,” Kane said. “But, you know, we said all along with our team, we don’t really care where the goals come from, as long as they’re coming from our team.”
While Toews, Kane and Stamkos have been shut down so far, the big question hanging over the Stanley Cup on Sunday was which goalie would be in net for Tampa Bay in Game 3. Even coach Jon Cooper said he wasn’t sure.
Ben Bishop left midway through the third period of Game 2. He returned for a brief stretch and then left for good. Andrei Vasilevskiy made five saves to help close out the series-tying win.
There has been no word from the Lightning on why Bishop departed. Cooper said he could be available for Game 3.
“You’ll have a better indication, I guess, tomorrow at the skate,” Cooper said. “Although our morning skates are all optional anyway. Bish, notoriously he goes on sometimes during them and sometimes he doesn’t. I’m sure you’ll get a clue then tomorrow.”
The 6-foot-7 Bishop had a franchise-record 40 wins this season. He is 12-9 with a 2.20 goals-against average in the playoffs.
Vasilevskiy, who turns 21 in July, has made 19 appearances this year, counting the playoffs, but Cooper and the Lightning insist they are comfortable with him in goal.
“If Bish can’t go tomorrow, is that a blow to us? Sure it is,” Cooper said. “But do we think the series is lost because Vasilevskiy is going in? Not a chance.”
Tampa Bay’s revolving door in net and the free-wheeling pace of Game 2 made Kane’s blank scoresheet all the more surprising. It was only the second time that he failed to record a shot on goal in 112 career playoff games, according to STATS.
“It’s not a stat you like to see, for sure,” said Kane, who won the Conn Smythe Trophy in 2013 for playoff MVP. “At the same time going into the next game, I’m not going to go in saying, ‘I need to get a shot here or there.’ I just go out and try to make the right play and worry about the results from there.”
Kane and Toews began the series on the same line after they helped the Blackhawks rally past the Ducks in the Western Conference finals. But coach Joel Quenneville broke up the duo near the end of Game 2 and likely will separate them again on Monday night, keeping at least one of the veteran scorers away from Tampa Bay’s top defensive pairing of Victor Hedman and Anton Stralman.
“I think that maybe changing those two guys on different lines will get us a little bit more depth and a little bit more balance, see how they can defend it,” Quenneville said.
Stamkos is in the middle of a streaky postseason. He had no goals and three assists in the first eight games, and then had a dazzling 10-game stretch of seven goals and seven assists. But he is without a point since he had a goal and an assist in a 2-0 victory in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Rangers.
Stamkos, one of the NHL’s most gifted scorers, led Tampa Bay and was second in the league with 43 goals in the regular season.
“I think both teams have some very skilled players that the other team is paying close attention to,” Stamkos said. “That’s when you get into secondary scoring. You saw it in Game 1 for them. You saw it in Game 2 for us. That might be a trend going forward.”
Jay Cohen can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/jcohenap