TAMPA, Fla. – Patrick Kane had no shots on goal for the last 40 minutes of Game One of the Stanley Cup final, and the Chicago Blackhawks won in the postseason this year for the first time without getting a point from Kane or Jonathan Toews.
Kane said after practice Friday the opener was a feeling-out process, and he learned the long sticks and big bodies of the Tampa Bay defense will be a challenge.
“They’re pretty stingy defensively, kind of play a man on man and don’t let you get to those open spots as much,” the South Buffalo native said as a couple dozen reporters crowded around his locker in Amalie Arena. “When you go up against that, the biggest thing is try to beat your man back to the net, get some shots from the point, maybe converge and get some rebounds.
“They have a lot of good defensemen, they have a lot of guys who have a good reach on you. It’s something we have to be aware of, especially when you have the puck. They can poke it from you. On the power play too, it seems like passing lanes close up a little bit faster. We have to be more aware of that.”
Toews had just one shot on goal in the game and it stands to reason that Chicago coach Joel Quenneville may shuffle his lines again and break up Kane and Toews to instill more balance if they struggle again. In practice Friday, the duo skated as normal with Brandon Saad.
“It seems like he knows what he’s doing behind the bench. It seems like when he breaks us up or puts us together it seems to be the right call and the right time,” Kane said. “We adjust on the go. I think that’s one of the things about our team – we play with so many different players throughout the year that come these times you kind of have a familiarity with one another.”
Tampa Bay led the league in offense in the regular season and Chicago is third in the postseason at 3.22 goals per game. So there was plenty of head-scratching after Game One was 1-0 through 53 minutes and ended at 2-1, like so many other games this postseason.
“It’s not surprising,” Kane said. “Coming into the series, both teams had a lot of offense and offensive players but I think the reason both of us got here in the first place was because of our defense and goaltending. Usually that first game, sometimes you kind of feel it out a little bit to see what’s going to happen the rest of the series. There were chances on both sides and I thought goalies made big saves when they had to. There could have been some more goals each way.”
Lightning coach Jon Cooper was asked how his team is dealing with the long postseason “grind” Friday and smiled as he went on an entertaining rant on the subject.
“Anytime the word ‘grind’ or something like that comes up, I sit there and think about that for two seconds, and I think about the fact that we’re still playing, it’s June, and we want nothing more than to be in the situation we’re in,” Cooper said.
“If there was ever a complaint about how hard this is or we’re a little bit sore, we’re a little bit tired, we just sit there and say, Would you trade this to be on a golf course? Everybody says, ‘No way.’ ...
“We just look at it as, Come on, there’s 30 teams, now there’s two left. We have the chance to play for the greatest trophy in sports. We don’t care if this goes till December. It’s too much fun to complain about a few bruises.”
Hawks forward Bryan Bickell practiced Friday and said he had passed concussion testing. Then Quenneville said Bickell didn’t have to because he didn’t have a concussion. Whatever the case, Bickell is almost certainly out again for Game Two.
“It’s something that comes and goes,” Bickell told a group of reporters. “It could come after I’m done talking to you. I don’t know.”
Quenneville also said he’ll likely stay with his same defensemen, although rookie Trevor van Riemsdyk is ready to play. The thinking is that van Riemsdyk, who had wrist surgery and has not played since November, would be better suited to make his postseason debut in Game Three Monday night in the United Center because Quennville can control matchups there.
A trio of former Sabres are here doing TV work. Patrick Lalime is appearing on air for TVA Sports, a French network in Quebec, and Martin Biron is on set for NHL Network.
Brad May, a regular part of the broadcast team for Sabres games on MSG, is here doing analyst work for FOX Sports 1.