The 2015 Stanley Cup Final is set to begin this coming Wednesday with the Tampa Bay Lightning hosting the Chicago Blackhawks for Game 1 of the series. With that said, let’s look at the five factors that will define this matchup.
Both the Lightning and the Blackhawks can score. The Blackhawks have Patrick Kane (10 goals this postseason) and Jonathan Toews (9) plus the likes of Brad Richards, Marian Hossa, Patrick Sharp, and Andrew Shaw. On the other hand, the Lightning have Steven Stamkos (7 goals) and a near-unstoppable
second line (AKA the Triplet Line) that has wreaked havoc in the playoffs. The offense generated by Ondrej Palat, Tyler Johnson, and Nikita Kucherov has been a big factor why Tampa Bay is still playing
hockey this June. The trio has combined for 28 goals and 27 assists this postseason. Both teams will
need to keep their offensive success going to have a shot at taking home Lord Stanley’s Cup.
The Blackhawks’ blue line will be subjected into an intense acid test as Tampa Bay’s horde of speedy
forwards have proven to be too much to handle for the Lightning’s previous opponents. Duncan Keith
leads the cast of Chicago’s defenseman. Keith (16 assists, +13) has been a freak in the playoffs playing
over 30 minutes a game on his way to several NHL ice time records. The Lightning, meanwhile, have the
top pair of Victor Hedman (+11) and Anton Stralman (+2).
Corey Crawford (9-4, 2.56 GAA, .919 SV% these playoffs) has been steady since playing a shaky first
round of the playoffs against Nashville. That’s why there hasn’t been a single Scott Darling sighting since.
Crawford has the experience advantage over Ben Bishop, having been part of the Blackhawks’ Cup run in
2013. As for Bishop (12-8, 2.15 GAA, .920 SV%), his inconsistency in between the pipes is what worries
Bolts fans. That said, he has shown ability to perform well under duress, as he is 7-1 with a 1.25 GAA and
.951 SV% and two shutouts in games after defeats in this postseason. Bishop’s ability to steal a game
relative to Crawford’s may be the reason the Stanley Cup series odds at topbet.eu favor Tampa Bay
slightly at -130.
On paper, the Lightning have the better power play than Chicago, as they are fifth in these playoffs on
the man advantage with a 22.2% conversion rate. On the flipside, the Blackhawks are seventh with a
power play that operates at 19.6%. When it comes to killing penalties, Tampa Bay is more successful
than the Blackhawks. The Lightning’s PK this postseason is at 81.2%, while the Blackhawks have
successfully stifled opposing power plays 75.5% of the time.
Experience matters in the playoffs. Fortunately for the Blackhawks, they’ve got a ton of it. The team’s
core composed of Toews, Kane, Hossa, Keith, and Brent Seabrook among others has won the Cup twice
before so it’s fair to say that nerves will be less of a factor for Chicago than for the young Lightning team.