Author: Mike Halford

Ben Bishop

Down, but not out: Cooper confirms Bishop will play again this series


CHICAGO — Ben Bishop will be back.

At what point, though, remains to be seen.

“Bishop’s going to play again this series,” Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said after Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 17 of 19 shots in a Game 4 loss to Chicago.”There’s no question.

“I just don’t know when.”

Cooper’s announcement was the latest in a saga that’s transfixed the Cup Final. After twice leaving Game 2 with a mystery ailment, then gutting it out in a 36-save victory in Game 3, Bishop was a late scratch from tonight’s tilt as the Lightning announced Vasilevskiy would get the start just minutes prior to puck drop.

What’s more, Bishop didn’t even dress on Wednesday. AHL call-up Kristers Gudlevskis, who’s been skating with Black Aces, suited up as Tampa’s No. 2 and watched Vasilevskiy become the sixth goalie in NHL history to make his playoff debut in the Stanley Cup Final — and impress Cooper in the process.

“If you tell me we’re going to come in and [Vasilevskiy’s] going to give up two goals, that’s a hell of a job in my book,” the Lightning head coach explained. “We’ve had a lot of success when we only give up two. That kid gave us every chance to win the hockey game. We only scored one.

“I thought he was great. He showed at the pinnacle of the sport that he can play. That’s a pretty big achievement for a 20-year-old.”

That Cooper was so high on Vasilevskiy — yet insisted Bishop will play again — should only further fuel the goalie drama moving forward. And make no mistake, there’s plenty more time for drama; these teams will now have two nights off before getting back at it for Game 5 on Saturday in Tampa Bay.

Which means another 48 hours of goaltender-related queries.

See you Saad-urday: ‘Hawks hang on, even Stanley Cup Final 2-2


CHICAGO — It wasn’t an oil painting.

But it was a win.

The Chicago Blackhawks did just enough on Wednesday night, holding off a furious late Lightning rally to win 2-1 in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final, evening the series at two games apiece.

Brandon Saad, one of the team’s best skaters over the last two contests, scored the game-winning goal at 6:22 of the third period on an assist from Patrick Kane — his first point of the series — and the ‘Hawks then held on for dear life over the final minutes, as the Bolts threw everything, kitchen sink and all, at Corey Crawford.

Crawford was the story late, making a flurry of saves in the face of serious pressure.

But early on, the guy in the other net was making headlines.

Russian rookie Andrei Vasilevskiy, 20, was the surprise starter in goal after Tampa Bay ruled out Ben Bishop just prior to gametime. While there’s still no indication of what’s bothering Bishop or how he’s feeling, whatever the ailment is proved severe enough to sideline him for the first time this series — this coming after his gutsy Game 3 performance, in which he stopped 36 shots while clearly laboring.source: Getty Images

Vasilevskiy was the story early, but that narrative faded as the game went on. For a team facing a potential 3-1 series deficit, Chicago didn’t exactly come storming out the gates; they did little to test Vasilevskiy in the opening frame, going the first eight minutes without putting a shot on goal, finishing the opening frame with just seven.

In the end, Vasilevskiy was only beaten twice on a grand total of 19 shots — once by Jonathan Toews (his first of the series) in the second period, and the game-winner by Saad in the third.

The Lightning, meanwhile, could only put one past Crawford, and it too came in the second period. Alex Killorn scored at the 11:47 mark, continuing Tampa’s trend of quickly erasing Chicago’s leads in this series:

What Tampa was unable to do tonight, however, was erase that second lead — though it wasn’t for a lack of trying. The Bolts will feel unlucky after carrying play for long stretches tonight, and probably deserved a better fate from a third period in which they out-shot the ‘Hawks 8-5 (25-19 overall).

As for the ‘Hawks? Well, a win’s a win and tonight’s was crucially important. It puts them back on even terms heading into Saturday’s pivotal Game 5, which will go from Amalie Arena in Tampa Bay.

Tonight’s result means the 2015 Stanley Cup Final will go to at least six games — and given how good it’s been so far, that’s a welcome development.


Toews’ goal was his 10th of the postseason, a career-high…Vasilevskiy became the sixth goalie in NHL history to make his first playoff start in the Stanley Cup Final, joining Joe Miller (Rangers, 1928), Alfie Moore (‘Hawks, 1938), Paul Goodman (‘Hawks, 1938), Hank Bassen (Red Wings, 1961) and Jussi Markkanen (Oilers, 2006)…Killorn’s goal was his ninth in 24 playoff games, after scoring 15 in 71 regular season contests…Every game in this series has now been decided by one goal: the ‘Hawks captured Games 1 and 4 by identical 2-1 scorelines, while Tampa Bay won the middle contests 4-3 and 3-2.

Bickell out, Versteeg in for Chicago in Game 4

CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 14: Bryan Bickell #29 of the Chicago Blackhawks moves to the puck against the Phoenix Coyotes at the United Center on November 14, 2013 in Chicago, Illinois. The Blackhawks defeated the Coyotes 5-4 in a shootout. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

CHICAGO — Kimmo Timonen won’t be the only lineup change for the Blackhawks tonight.

Kris Versteeg, who played in the first two games of the Stanley Cup Final before getting dropped for Game 3, will draw back in at the expense of Bryan Bickell, who sits after making his series debut on Monday night.

“Every time you’re out, you want to be in,” Versteeg said following today’s morning skate. “And every time you’re in you want to make a point and make a mark. So, I’m excited.”

Versteeg was noticeable over the first two games of the series, and was rewarded in Game 2 with just under 12 minutes of ice time. Bickell, meanwhile, wasn’t as effective after shaking off a bout of vertigo — he didn’t play much at all in Game 3 (just 9:53) and is now goalless through 18 playoff games.

The burly power forward admitted it was tough getting dropped from tonight’s tilt.

“Frustrating, but they switch the lineup for a reason, to get a spark from somebody or some line,” Bickell explained. “It’s disappointing. I’ve been off for a week, play one game, thought it went pretty well.

“But there are still more games to go. I just have to make a big impact when I get back in.”

(Video) PHT Extra: Bolts beating ‘Hawks at their own game, and Hedman’s coming-out party


A special version of PHT Extra as Brough and I were live on location at the United Center, joined by the always-excellent CSN Chicago Blackhawks insider Tracey Myers.

Among the topics discussed:

— Tampa Bay taking a page out of Chicago’s book en route to a 2-1 series lead.

— Victor Hedman showing up big on the national stage after a brilliant Game 3 performance.

— The Hawks have been down in series and Cup Finals before, so don’t rush to write ’em off.

— Can the Bolts continue their run of impressive play on the road?


Timonen to make series debut tonight for ‘Hawks

Chicago Blackhawks v Philadelphia Flyers

CHICAGO — Kimmo Timonen will play for the Blackhawks in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final.

“He gives us some predictability,” head coach Joel Quennville said of Timonen on Wednesday, confirming the veteran d-man would play tonight. “I think his coverage in the D zone, strength in the puck area. He’s smart, experienced.

“I think he did a good job for us throughout the playoffs. Gives him a chance to get in here in an good moment, a big moment. His reads and his position awareness and coverage in his own end will help him.”

So we know Timonen’s in, but the rest is uncertain. There’s been no firm update on the health of Johnny Oduya, who was injured during Game 3 and played just 9:10 over the final two periods.

If Oduya plays (and per Quenneville, it sounds like he will), it’s probable that Kyle Cumiskey — who, like Timonen, is a left-handed shot — will be the odd man out on defense. Cumiskey took some serious heat for losing Cedric Paquette on the game-deciding goal in Game 3, and finished with just 7:38 TOI.

Should things play out this way, Trevor van Riemsdyk would stay in on defense over David Rundblad for the second straight game.

As for the 40-year-old Timonen, he’s set to make his series debut and will play for the first time since Game 5 of the Western Conference Final against the Ducks — which was 16 days ago. That contest, a 5-4 Anaheim win in overtime, was one of Timonen’s roughest outings in what’s been a forgettable playoff; the veteran Finn was minus-2 in just 8:06 of ice time, and received just three shifts in the third period and OT.

“Coaches make the decisions, they put the best lineup on the ice and that’s it,” Timonen explained. “I’m just the one piece of the team here.

“I decided I’m going to work hard at the practice and stay positive and make sure if that chance comes I’m ready to go, and it looks like it’s here.