The 2015 Stanley Cup Finals between the Chicago Blackhawks and Tampa Bay Lightning is a matchup of two star-studded teams. The Blackhawks, the slight favourites, will rely on veterans as they try to win their third Stanley Cup in six years. The Lightning, who haven’t won a Stanley Cup since 2004, will be powered by a bunch of players who are just making names for themselves in the NHL.
Here’s what you need to know about both teams:
The Blackhawks are a finesse team. Their ability to move the puck up ice in a hurry with crisp passes will put pressure on the Tampa defence. The depth of Chicago is notable as all four lines can score.
Up front, the Blackhawks are led by Jonathan Toews (9 goals, 9 assists, 18 points) and Patrick Kane (10 goals, 20 points). The toughness of Toews exemplifies this Blackhawks team, which has four overtime wins (two in double OT, two triple OT) in the 2015 postseason. Kane is one of the most exciting players in the league.
“His skill with the puck is probably the best in the league,” Tampa Bay defenseman Victor Hedman told the Chicago Tribune.
Throw in veterans Brad Richards, Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa, young stud Brandon Saad, and the scrappy Andrew Shaw, and the Blackhawks have depth that make them tough to beat.
At defence, the Blackhawks rely heavily on their top four. Duncan Keith (2 goals, 18 points) averages 31:35 of ice time per contest to lead all skaters, and is considered one of the front-runners for the Conn Smthye trophy, given to the most valuable player throughout the playoffs. Add Brent Seabrook, Niklas Hjalmarsson and Johnny Oduya, and the Blackhawks have one of the stronger top 4 pairings in the league.
In goal for the Blackhawks is Corey Crawford. After being replaced for a lacklustre Game 1 performance in the first round of the playoffs, Crawford has come on strong to amass a 9-4 record with a 2.56 goals against average and 91.9% save percentage.
Tampa Bay Lightning
Tampa Bay has offensive firepower of its own. The speed of Tampa’s youngsters will put pressure on the Blackhawks, and could wear out the heavily relied upon top-four Chicago defensemen. The Lightning’s power play will be crucial, having scored at least one goal with a man advantage in five of seven games against the Rangers in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Tyler Johnson is the man to watch. At 24 years old he leads the playoffs in scoring with 12 goals and 21 points in just his second full season. Johnson is supported by fellow 24-year old Ondrej Palat (7 goals 15 points), 25 year olds Steven Stamkos (7 goals, 17 points) and Alex Killorn (7 goals, 16 points) and 21-year old Nikita Kucherov. The Lightning look up to the veteran leadership of Brian Boyle and Anton Stralman who were added in the offseason, joining former New York Rangers teammate Ryan Callahan, who was acquired at the 2014 trade deadline.
The Lightning have depth along the blue line. They routinely dress seven defensemen instead of the usual six. Hedman and Stralman anchor the Tampa Bay defence and at 23:24 and 22:13 per game, trail all of Chicago’s top 4. Killorn, Jason Garrison, Matthew Carle, Braydon Coubron and Andrej Sustr all log more than 16 minutes per contents.
As impressive as Corey Crawford has looked, Tampa Bay’s Ben Bishop has been better. While Bishop’s record (12-8) isn’t as impressive, he a sparkling 2.15 goals against average while saving 92.0% of the shots he has faced.
Stanley Cup Finals Schedule
Game 1: Wednesday, June 3, at Tampa, 8 p.m. ET, NBC
Game 2: Saturday, June 6, at Tampa, 7:15 p.m. ET, NBC
Game 3: Monday, June 8, at Chicago, 8 p.m. ET, NBC Sports
Game 4: Wednesday, June 10, at Chicago, 8 p.m. ET, NBC Sports
Game 5 (if necessary): Saturday, June 13, at Tampa, 8 p.m. ET, NBC
Game 6 (if necessary): Monday, June 15, at Chicago, 8 p.m. ET, NBC
Game 7 (if necessary): Wednesday, June 17, at Tampa, 8 p.m. ET, NBC
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