It has all come down to two.
Two teams competing for hockey’s greatest prize, Lord Stanley’s Cup. For the Tampa Bay Lightning, it’s entering fairly uncharted territory. Though the Bolts did win the cup in 2004, only Val Filppula on the current team has his name on the cup. Johnson, Kucherov, Palat, Stamkos and Bishop are all new to this stage of the playoffs. For the Blackhawks, it’s all so familiar. As a matter of fact, only Teuvo Teravainen, Andrew Desjardins and Kyle Cumiskey have never played in the Finals. Only Timonen and Vermette have never won it. For the most part, Chicago still has their 2013 championship roster intact, minus a couple of players like Dave Bolland, Michael Frolik and Nick Leddy. Their stars, Toews, Kane, Keith and Sharp have all been here before. Marian Hossa will be playing in his 5th Stanley Cup Final in 8 years. The experience is very clearly in favor of Chicago.
But how much does it matter? Tampa Bay is full of young guns, but that hasn’t seemed to phase them so far. Johnson, Palat and Kucherov have all been nothing short of amazing, Stamkos picked it up after a quiet series against Detroit. On top of the big names, the Lightning also have the grit, depth and experience. Brian Boyle was here last year with the Rangers, and the aforementioned Filppula was part of numerous playoff runs with Detroit. Brenden Morrow is a seasoned veteran, and Alex Killorn has been tremendous since lining up with Stamkos. Ben Bishop has struggled at times, he’s gotten the big wins when needed, posting two game 7 shutouts in this playoff run. The defense meanwhile, led by Victor Hedman has locked down just about everyone they’ve seen. They’ve been stingy, aggressive and lockdown against the Wings, Habs and Rangers.
The Tampa Bay defense though hasn’t seen a team quite like this. That’s because there is no team like this. There is no team in the league that can boast as star-studded of a lineup as Chicago can. While the Lightning defense has seen the likes of Datsyuk, Nyquist, Nash and Pacioretty, they haven’t seen anyone near the caliber of Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. They haven’t had to try and shut down a team as deep and well rounded as Chicago. Once you get past those two, there is Sharp and Hossa and Saad and Shaw, and the former Conn Smythe winner Brad Richards. Plus that’s only the forwards. Duncan Keith has been the best defenseman in the playoffs, and his partner Brent Seabrook is one of the best shutdown defenseman in hockey. Chicago’s main concern resides in their defensive depth though, because after Keith, Seabrook, Oduya and Hjalmarsson, you get to the aged Kimmo Timonen, and sparsely used Kyle Cumiskey. In net, Corey Crawford has had his issues, such as being pulled in the Nashville series, but also stole the Blackhawks Game 2 against Anaheim making 60 saves in a Triple overtime win.
So is it the young guns or the veterans? Showtime or Triplets? The Answer? It’s Showtime. The series should be an instant classic. Both teams are heavily loaded, and have the capability to win the series. In the end though, the veteran experience of the Hawks will be just enough to edge Tampa Bay.
Hawks win the series and the Stanley Cup in 7 games