In a match-up that is sure to be entertaining, the Chicago Blackhawks and Tampa Bay Lightning will battle for the Stanley Cup. The action kicks off with game one on Wednesday in Tampa Bay. The Blackhawks are playing in their third Final since 2010 and are looking for their third championship in that span. The Lightning return to the Final for the first time since hoisting the cup in 2004.
Both teams boast elite forwards in their captains, for Chicago it is Jonathan Toews and for Tampa Bay it is Steven Stamkos. The Blackhawks have an elite scorer in Patrick Kane with the Lightning’s Tyler Johnson has been excellent at lighting the lamp this postseason. Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook lead the way on defense for Chicago while Victor Hedman has taken his game to another level for the Lightning.
The Blackhawks have the edge in experience and coaching, as Joel Quenville has been at the helm for both of Chicago’s championships. They are also the more complete team, boasting not only Toews, Kane, Seabrook, and Keith but also Marian Hossa, Patrick Sharp, Andrew Shaw, along with Johnny Oduya. All of these players have performed in big moments for Chicago and have Championship experience.
Tampa Bay is not as deep as Chicago but boasts some impressive talent. J.T. Brown, Brian Boyle, Valterri Filppula, and Anton Stralman should all make an impact. Ben Bishop has been solid for the Lightning in net and the battle between him and the Blackhawks’ Corey Crawford will be a big element in the series. Both teams were top ten puck possession teams this season (via CORSI advanced stat) and can also score. Chicago is third in goals per game this postseason while Tampa Bay is fourth.
In the end, both teams play exciting and physical hockey. However, the Blackhawks just have too much experience and are too solid top to bottom for the Lightning. Tampa Bay will be contenders for the next several years, but Chicago remains the NHL’s gold standard.