Blackhawks leave Tampa believing their best hockey is still ahead

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(CHICAGO) -- By splitting the first two games of the Stanley Cup Final in Tampa Bay, the Chicago Blackhawks grabbed home ice from the Lightning in the series. Yet the Hawks believe they haven't come close to playing their best hockey as they return to the United Center for Game 3 Monday night.

"It kind of reminds me of our last series with Anaheim, the games, how competitive, how fast, up and down," said Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville. "We got to know going forward we got to be better than we were in the first two games. We have to progress in our team game because we haven't played our best yet. But certainly we have to be better if we want to win."

Ironically, the Blackhawks played the better of their two games in Tampa in a 4-3 loss in Game 2, while scratching out a victory in Game 1 despite being outplayed for a majority of the three periods.

"We like to think that we're going to step up our game beyond where we played in the previous series. They're doing the same," said Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews. "We knew they were a good team and they were going to raise their level of play coming into the series. It's not going to get any easier going forward."

The Blackhawks started their first round series with Nashville and the Western Conference Finals on the road and also split those series a game apiece. After an opening game dominated by defense and net-minding, the Hawks and Lightning showed off their speed and offensive skill in Game 2.

Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop left Game 2 in the third period for undisclosed reasons. Backup goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy made five key saves down the stretch and earned the win. The Hawks say they aren't worried about who will be in net for Game 3.

"I don't really care who is going to be in net," said Blackhawks rookie forward Teuvo Teravainen. "I know they're good goalies both. Especially I've played against Vasilevsky twice with the international team, so I know him a little bit. I think I've scored on him before, too. We'll see who is in there, I really don't care."

Coach Quenneville said rookie defenseman Trevor Van Riemsdyk could play Game 3. Bryan Bickell, who missed games 1 and 2 with an upper-body injury, could also be back.


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