Blackhawks chicago

Stanley Cup Preview

Wednesday, June 03, 2015 Michael Shayler

Stop me if you have heard this before. The Chicago Blackhawks will play for the Stanley Cup. Yes, for the third time in the past six seasons, the Blackhawks will look to bring home Lord Stanley's trophy once again.

The Blackhawks previously beat the Philadelphia Flyers in six games on a Patrick Kane overtime goal back in 2010 and used a historic 17 second stretch in the final minutes of Game 6 to close out the Boston Bruins in 2013.

The Hawks are looking for yet another Stanley Cup victory. Image courtesy of wallozo.com
This time around a matchup against the Tampa Bay Lightning and their number one scoring offence in the National Hockey League at 3.11 Goals per Game is in order.

The playmaking ability of both teams is sure to make this quite an entertaining series, but the Blackhawks look to have advantages in many aspects.

Team depth is the biggest difference in this series.

The Blackhawks can get production from a variety of different players, no matter which line is on the ice. From top lines that feature forwards, Jonathon Toews (captain), Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa and Brandon Saad. As well as the lower lines with Patrick Sharp, Andrew Shaw and Antoine Vermette. A different player seems to always make a big play when needed. Also, add in the fact that Chicago's top four defensemen are capable scorers, and Tampa Bay has their work cut out for them.

Tamps Bay is a team that relies heavily on it's top lines for production. Of the teams last 21 goals, only one has come from a player outside the team's top two lines.      

Led by All-Star Steven Stamkos, who was second in the NHL with 43 goals during the regular season, the Lightning will need alot more than Stamkos to contend with the Blackhawks. The Triplets line of Tyler Johnson (team points leader during playoffs), Ondrej Palat and Nikita Kucherov boasts the speed needed to keep up with the Hawks on both offense and defense, and will also be Chicago's biggest key to defend.

Steven Stamkos, 43 goals during regular season, is an elite scorer for Tampa Bay. image courtesy of o.canada.com

The Lightning also have a top defensive pair that could give Chicago a rough go. Victor Hedman and Anton Stralman are excellent, smart puck moving defenders that can have a huge impact on a game at any given moment.

Ryan Callahan is also a player to watch for; he is a saavy veteran and former captain of the New York Rangers who will be playing to finally capture his first Stanley Cup.

Goaltenders for each team have been inconsistent during these playoffs.

Ben Bishop gave up five goals on three occasions during the Eastern Conference Finals vs the New York Rangers. He also became the first goalie in NHL history to record two shut outs during his first two Game 7 apperances. That makes it difficult to judge what kind of performance to expect against the skillful Blackhawks.

Corey Crawford has been known to give up weak goals here and there. That is one thing he cannot afford to do against this high powered Tampa Bay offense. Crawford has stepped up in the past during pressure situation and it's expected he will be prepared for the challenge.

One area the Hawks will need to perform better in is Penalty Kill.

Tampa Bay is not the team you want to play short handed against. Allowing the Lightnings power play to set up good looks on goal could play a huge role in lengthening this series. The Hawks must avoid the penalty box at all cost.

In the end, Chicago's leadership, depth, experience, and cohesiveness will be too much for Tampa Bay to control, but this should serve as a nice learning curve for this up and coming Lightning team.

The Lightning are a very good, young team. They actually seem similar to the Blackhawks at the beginning of their Stanley Cup run. A group of young, talented play makers with the right mix of veteran players that will make the franchise relevant again.

The core of Toews, Kane, Sharp, Hossa, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Niklas Hjalmarsson has been here, done that. These players have been together and played vital roles during this successful six year run, so this is nothing new to them.
It would be exciting to see the Hawks clinch the series at home. image courtesy of sabrenoise.com
For the sake of finally having that Stanley Cup clinching win on home ice in front of the best fans in hockey, the Blackhawks will win their third Stanley Cup in the past six years, in six games. Duncan Keith should be named the Conn Smythe trophy winner for the Most Valuable Player during the playoffs. Keith has been spectacular on defense and leads all players in time on ice and has put up 18 points in 17 games.














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