One of the things that stood out to me about hockey when I was younger was the “Three Stars of the Game” after each game. It was, different, like everything in hockey was to me when learning the game. It was reminiscent of the “Hero & Goat” caricatures by the late, great Bill Gallo that I read in the NY Daily News after playoff games involving professional teams in New York City.
Needless to say it was a bit surreal being able to one day actually vote for the three stars of the game sometimes while covering New Jersey Devils games. The 2015 Stanley Cup Final is now underway between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Chicago Blackhawks and for the duration of the series in this space we will take a look at who we thought were the three stars of each game.
2015 Stanley Cup Final
Game 1: Chicago 2 Tampa Bay 1 — 3 Stars of the Game
Game 2: Tampa Bay 4 Chicago 3 — 3 Stars of the Game
Game 3: Tampa Bay 3 Chicago 2
A perfect long distance slap pass from Hedman to Callahan to open the scoring:
3) Ryan Callahan (Tampa Bay) Once again Callahan was a major factor for the Lightning all over the scoresheet. Not only did he have the game’s first goal and an assist on the late third period game-winning goal, but he also had five hits of his team’s 47 and four shots on goal (tied team-high). These are the moments and games where big-time players step up and make big-time plays and that what the ex-Ranger is, and why Tampa Bay has to be ecstatic that they not only got him but a pair of draft picks for a player ten years his elder at the 2014 NHL trade deadline. Chicago’s Marian Hossa was almost the choice here, but it’s hard to ignore the impact Callahan has had. The stars in this series have canceled each other out as far as underwhelming us and Tampa’s role players are outplaying the Blackhawks’.
BOLTS WIN, 3-2! ⚡️
— Tampa Bay Lightning (@TBLightning) June 9, 2015
2) Victor Hedman (Tampa Bay) As we mentioned after Game 2 the Victor Hedman party is in full force right now and on the biggest stage one of the league’s biggest players is having the biggest impact (how do you say Conn Smythe in Swedish? Anyone?). “He was a monster out there tonight,” said his coach Jon Cooper afterwards. Another two assist game (both primary assists), four shots on goal (tied team-high), five blocked shots (game high), and a team-high (shocker) of 26:06 ice-time. Oh and by the way Patrick Kane still doesn’t have a point in the series. Yeah, that Patrick Kane; the one that has six shots on goal in three games and zero points. Side note: Jonathan Toews only has one point in the three games.
Silky smooth moves by big Victor Hedman to set up the game-winning goal:
1) Ben Bishop (Tampa Bay) The goalie that wasn’t good enough to start in Ottawa or St. Louis and had back-to-back 37+ win seasons with the Lightning is now two wins away from a Stanley Cup — and he is doing it while injured too. Whatever it is that is bothering the 28-year-old from Denver, Colorado it’s very noticeable, and that means the Blackhawks noticed it; and they threw 38 shots at the Tampa netminder. Bishop battled through his ailment and stopped 18 of 19 first period Chicago shots while not looking comfortable at all. He got banged around throughout the game, as we would expect, and he was able to seal the win stopping 11 of the 12 third period shots he faced. His out-dueled a healthy goalie in the Stanley Cup Final, on the road; this was an easy choice.
Game 4 is a must-win game for the Blackhawks at home or else they may be playing their last game of the season on Saturday night back in Tampa Bay.