The Tampa Bay Lightning will host the Chicago Blackhawks Wednesday, June 3 in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final. Both teams won Game 7 in impressive fashion on the road in each respected conference finals.
For Chicago, this is a chance to win their third championship in six years. This team is the San Francisco Giants of hockey. They have experienced core players with super-star status unmatched by any team in the NHL. They’ve been in contention each of the last six seasons making it to the Western Conference Finals four times. Chicago will enter this series as the odds favorite to win, and they should be.
Experience is key for the Blackhawks
Chicago’s roster is stacked with championship experience. Stop me when you haven’t seen these names on a stat sheet: Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp, Duncan Keith, Marian Hossa, Brent Seabrook. These have been the main guys since their first Stanley Cup Championship together in 2010. During the playoffs, they lead the team in points, games played and playing time. They play defense, they know how to get a lead and keep it, they win at home and they win on the road and if they need it, Cory Crawford will stand on his head to get the win.
The Blackhawks also have plenty of veteran experience, with the likes of Brad Richards, Bryan Bickell and Brandon Saad, who fill in their back lines. It’s going to be tough to knock of the franchise of the half-decade, but a familiar looking team could do it.
Look in the mirror Chicago
This Tampa Bay Lightning team reminisce the 2010 Chicago Blackhawks. The team is full of young internally groomed 20-something-year-old talent, including a couple high teens. Like the Blackhawks, the Lightning build from within with high draft picks will no-ceiling projected talent, starting with one of the best scorers in the NHL, Steven Stamkos. The 25-year-old captain is top ten in all scoring categories (points, goals and assists) in the playoffs. If the Lightning want to hoist and pass around that cup, Stamkos will have to continue to lead his team in scoring.
Prediction: Blackhawks win in five
Chicago is just too talented. They just win whether they are at home or on the road. Like their fan base, their defensive minded game plan travels well. Tampa’s home ice may not be an advantage at all. The Lightning struggled this postseason at home (one home win in the conference finals) and they are about to play one of the biggest fan base followings in the NHL. Expect to see and hear a lot of red in the stands at Tampa Bay.
The matchup to watch for will be Stamkos vs. the hampered Chicago defense. It will be interesting to see if the ice time of the Blackhawks catches up to them, and if they start to show fatigue, look for Stamkos and crew to take full advantage.
Win or lose, the Lightning are on the rise and could easily be favored to win the cup in years to come. But it would be nice for it to happen this year. Don’t you want to see former Dallas Stars captain Brenden Morrow win the cup?
Game 1: at Tampa Bay Wednesday, June 3 at 7:00 pm CT
Game 2: at Tampa Bay Saturday, June 6 at 6:15 pm CT
Game 3: at Chicago Monday, June 8 at 7:00 pm CT
Game 4: at Chicago Wednesday, June 10 at 7:00 pm CT
*Game 5: at Tampa Bay Saturday, June 13 at 7:00 pm CT
*Game 6: at Chicago Monday, June 15 at 7:00 pm CT
*Game 7: at Tampa Bay Wednesday, June 17 at 7:00 pm CT