The Chicago Blackhawks have an opportunity to do something Monday night that they haven’t done since 1938: clinch a Stanley Cup on home ice.
The Blackhawks, who are seeking their third title in six years, have won back-to-back games against the Tampa Bay Lightning to take a 3-2 series lead. Tampa Bay, however, knows it can win on the road, as it won Game 3 in Chicago.
Brandon Tierney believes the first few minutes of Game 6 will be crucial for both teams. When you’re facing elimination, there’s palpable pressure to survive; when you’re one win from a championship – especially at home – sometimes you come out tight.
It’s a battle of wills, yes, but it’s also a battle of emotions.
“I’ve been through this twice as a coach in Pittsburgh in ’91 and ’92, and we were fortunate enough to win both times,” NHL on NBC “In the Glass” analyst Pierre McGuire recalled on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “One was a Game 4 here in Chicago, where we swept them. The other one was a Game 6 in Minnesota, where we beat them in six. Both were on the road. We were much better the second time around. I think Chicago, this is their third time around for most of their core players in this. They’ll be much better prepared.
“Now, obviously it’s on home ice,” McGuire continued. “There’s a little bit of a different emotion (there). You’re probably more aggressive on home ice than you are on the road. For Tampa, it’s going to be about surviving the first five minutes. Usually it’s tough here to begin with. I’ve been around this Chicago team a long time. When you have a chance to close somebody out and you’re Chicago, usually you’re very good at it and very efficient at it. This will be a very, very good test to see where their mental resolve is.”
Ben Bishop’s, in particular. It’s been an up-and-down postseason for the Tampa Bay goalie, who missed Game 4 with an undisclosed injury and then made a crucial error that led to an empty-net goal for Patrick Sharp in Chicago’s 2-1 win in Game 5.
“That was a tough one,” McGuire said. “To be fair to him, most fundamental hockey coaches would tell you that was Bishop’s puck to play and (Victor) Hedman should have bailed out.”
Bishop and Hedman accidentally collided in the first period of Game 5, wiping each other out. Sharp gathered the loose puck and scored, which proved to be the difference in yet another game that was decided by one goal.
Still, McGuire doesn’t expect any lingering issues for Bishop – at least not mentally.
“Quite frankly, I think Ben Bishop is really mentally strong,” McGuire said. “I’ve seen this movie from him before. He got pulled in the Detroit series in Round 1, yet he won a Game 6 on the road and won a Game 7 at home. He got pulled in the Montreal series, yet he won a Game 6 on home ice and eliminated the Canadiens. He got pulled in the third round against New York, but he shut out the Rangers in Game 5 and Game 7 in New York. So I’ve seen this from this guy. He’s extremely resilient and very mentally tough.”