Monday, June 1, 2015

2015 Stanley Cup Finals Preview

The 2015 Stanley Cup Finals features the Eastern Conference Champion Tampa Bay Lightning vs. the Western Conference Champion Chicago Blackhawks. This is how the teams got to this point:

Tampa Bay defeats Detroit Red Wings 4-3
Tampa Bay defeats Montreal Canadiens 4-2
Tampa Bay defeats New York Rangers 4-3

Chicago defeats Nashville Predators 4-2
Chicago defeats Minnesota Wild 4-0
Chicago defeats Anaheim Ducks 4-3

I went 0/2 last round as I picked Anaheim and New York to move on, but overall I am 11/14 in the playoffs. With that being said, here's a look at the Stanley Cup Finals:

#2 Tampa Bay Lightning vs #3 Chicago Blackhawks

Season Series: Tampa Bay won the season series 1-0-1.

November 11, 2014: Chicago Blackhawks 3, Tampa Bay Lightning 2 (SO)

February 27, 2015: Tampa Bay Lightning 4, Chicago Blackhawks 0

Series Schedule:
Game 1: Wednesday January 3rd at Amalie Arena (Tampa Bay) - 8:00PM.
Game 2: Saturday January 6th at Amalie Arena (Tampa Bay) - 7:30PM
Game 3: Monday June 8th at United Center (Chicago) - 8:00PM
Game 4: Wednesday June 10th at United Center (Chicago) - 8:00PM
Game 5: Saturday June 13th at Amalie Arena (Tampa Bay) - 8:00PM*
Game 6: Monday June 15th at United Center (Chicago) - 8:00PM*
Game 7: Wednesday June 17th at Amalie Arena (Tampa Bay) - 8:00PM*
*If necessary
Amalie Arena (left) in Tampa Bay and United Center (right) in Chicago.
Players to Watch:

Tampa Bay: Steven Stamkos, Tyler Johnson, Nikita Kucherov, Victor Hedman, Ondrej Palat, Alex Killorn

Chicago: Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, Marian Hossa, Brent Seabrook, Brad Richards


Tampa Bay: Steven Stamkos

Chicago: Jonathan Toews

Playoff Leaders:

Tampa Bay:
Goals: Tyler Johnson (12), Nikita Kucherov (9), Steven Stamkos (7), Alex Killorn (7), Ondrej Palat (7)
Assists: Steven Stamkos (10), Nikita Kucherov (10), Tyler Johnson (9), Alex Killorn (9), Victor Hedman (9)
Points: Tyler Johnson (21), Nikita Kucherov (19), Steven Stamkos (17), Alex Killorn (16), Ondrej Palat (15)
Goalies: Ben Bishop (12-8 2.15 GAA .920 SV% 3 Shutouts)

Goals: Patrick Kane (10), Jonathan Toews (9), Brent Seabrook (6), Brandon Saad (6), Marian Hossa (4)
Assists: Duncan Keith (16), Patrick Kane (10), Jonathan Toews (9), Marian Hossa (9), Brad Richards (9)
Points: Patrick Kane (20), Jonathan Toews (18), Duncan Keith (18), Marian Hossa (13), Patrick Sharp (12)
Goalies: Corey Crawford (9-4 2.56 GAA .919 SV% 1 Shutout)

Series Notes:
-The Lightning enter the Stanley Cup Final having beaten the Detroit Red Wings (4-3), Montreal Canadiens (4-2) and New York Rangers (4-3). They are the 1st team in the expansion era to have faced 4 consecutive Original 6 teams in the playoffs.

-The Blackhawks enter the Stanley Cup Final having beaten the Nashville Predators (4-2), Minnesota Wild (4-0) and Anaheim Ducks (4-3). They are in their 3rd Stanley Cup in the last 6 years and 2nd in the last 3 years.
-The Lightning enter this series having been one of the most consistent offensive teams in the playoffs.
-The line of Ondrej Palat-Tyler Johnson-Nikita Kucherov has combined for 28 goals and 55 points in 20 games, the most of any line in the playoffs. The line has scored 28 of the team's 55 goals in the playoffs. Tyler Johnson has been the best offensive player in the playoffs, he looks to build on his Lightning playofff record 12 goals.
-While the Johnson line carried the Lightning early on, it was the Alex Killorn-Valtteri Filppula-Steven Stamkos line that really heated up the last 2 rounds. The line has combined for 17 goals and 44 points in the playoffs. The Lightning will need Steven Stamkos at his best to win this series.
-Much has been said about the depth on defence for the Lightning, but no one has been more important than Victor Hedman and Anton Stralman. The Swedish defense pair has been a force in the playoffs, contributing 17 points and logging big minutes on the blue line. These guys will be counted heavily on to shut down Kane and Toews. Look for Jason Garrison, Braydon Coburn and Matt Carle to make an impact too.
-The Hawks have one of the deepest forwards groups in the NHL, it will be important for the Lightning's role guys (Brian Boyle, Ryan Callahan, Cedric Paquette, Brenden Morrow) to contribute in this series.
-Ben Bishop has been very consistent throughout the playoffs, something that has been overlooked with all of the success the Lightning have had offensively. He has a playoff-high 3 shutouts and 12 wins.
-It will be a very interesting coaching battle between the vet Joel Quenneville and the inexperienced but up-and-coming Jon Cooper.
-The Blackhawks enter this series having beaten the Anaheim Ducks in one of the most entertaining series in a long time. Joel Quenneville decided to reunite Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews in game 5 and didn't look back, as the duo combined for 4 goals and 4 assists in the final 3 games.
-The Hawks will need to match the Lightning's high scoring top 6, and don't be surprised if Coach Q does some line juggling to try and match Tampa Bay. My guess is it will start as Toews between Kane and Saad and Richards between Hossa and Sharp.
-Duncan Keith has been by far the most consistent defenseman in the playoffs, logging major minutes (NHL-best 31:35 minutes of icetime per game in the playoffs) and contributing 18 points. Keith and Seabrook will be relied heavily upon in this series to shutdown the Lightning's top 6.
-As much as Keith and Seabrook will be important, so will the play of Johnny Oduya and Niklas Hjalmarsson. With Michal Rozsival out the Hawks have a lot of inconsistency in their 3rd pairing (Kyle Cumiskey, Kimmo Timonen, David Runblad etc.) and thus will be playing the top 4 a ton. That means Oduya and Hjalmarsson will have their hands full with the Lightning forwards.
-Look for the Hawks depth forwards to make an impact in this series, guys like Andrew Shaw, Marcus Kruger, Bryan Bickell and Andrew Desjardins.
-2 young guys to watch for the Hawks in this series: Brandon Saad and Teuvo Teravainen. Excited to see what these guys can do.
-Corey Crawford has gotten better as each round went on, and he was crucial down the stretch in the Ducks series. He will have his work cut out for him against Tampa Bay but will be up to the test.
-This has the potential to be a very high-scoring series, two of the fastest and most offensively-gifted teams in the NHL.
Prediction: There are so many different reason to be excited about this series, the dynasty Chicago Blackhawks against the up-and-coming Tampa Bay Lightning. It is going to be a fantastic series, and it will be very close as well. While I want to root for the Lightning for the sake of seeing someone new win, I can't help but think the Blackhawks are destined for their 3rd Cup in 6 years.


This has the Chicago Blackhawks as Stanley Cup Champions for the 3rd time in 6 years.

-Joel Forman - The Forman Faceoff 

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