06/03/15 by Matthew S. Vandriak
A dynasty in the making versus an surprising, upstart challenger. The Chicago Blackhawks are looking for their 3rd Stanley Cup in 6 seasons, while Tampa Bay is looking for their first Stanley Cup since 2004. This has the makings of a great finals matchup between two exciting teams. So lets break down the 2015 Stanley Cup.
Both teams were pushed to the brink of elimination and battled back. The Lightning trailed Detroit 3 games to 2 in the opening round before coming back to win in 7 games. Tampa Bay jumped out to a three games to none lead over Montreal in the 2nd round, before finishing the Canadiens in 6 gams. The Lightning then defeated New York in Game 7 on the road. Chicago defeated Nashville in 6 games in the opening round, then swept Minnesota in round two. The Blackhawks trailed Anaheim 3 games to 2 before winning the final 2 games and Game 7 on the road.
These teams have lots of talented players, and that depth is a big part of the reason both of them are the last two teams standing. Tyler Johnson of the Lightning leads the 2015 post season with 12 goals and 21 points. Right behind him is Chicago's Patrick Kane, who's scored 10 goals and tallied 20 points. Nikita Kucherov of Tampa Bay has scored 9 goals and recorded 19 points so far during these playoffs. Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith has racked up 18 points, with 16 of those being assists. Jonathan Toews also has 18 points for the Blackhawks (9G/9A). Steven Stamkos has recorded 17 points (7G/10A) for Tampa Bay.
Tampa Bay's Ben Bishop has come through in big games in these playoffs. Bishop shut out the Rangers in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals, and also shutout Detroit in Game 7 of the opening round. Chicago's Corey Crawford had a rough start to this run to the Cup, getting benched in the first round. But Crawford has done what's been needed to get the Blackhawks through the Western Conference playoff field.
On special teams, the edge goes to the Lightning. Tampa Bay has a 22.2% conversion rate on the power play, while Chicago is converting at 19.6%. The Lightning's penalty kill is at 81.2%, while the Blackhawks are at 75.5%.
Neither team lost any players to injury in their respective conference finals. But the Blackhawks will again be without defenseman Michal Rosival, who was lost for the remainder of the playoffs in the Minnesota series. Rosival's absence was felt in the Western Conference Finals, as the Ducks exposed the Blackhawks lower defensive pairs. One of the keys to this series will be can Chicago's defense slow down Tampa Bay's "Triplet Line" of Johnson, Kucherov and Palat, who have been the best line of any team in the 2015 playoffs. The experience edge definitely belongs to Chicago due to their two previous Stanley Cup wins.
Here are a couple of other interesting tidbits...Tampa Bay is the first team to eliminate 3 "Original Six" teams en route to the final, and are looking to make it a 4th. Chicago has won all 7 of it's playoff games when leading after two periods, and are 32 and 0 when leading after 40 minutes through the regular season and playoffs. These teams split their 2 regular season meetings, with Chicago winning in a shootout and Tampa Bay winning 4 to 0.
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