The Stanley Cup finals begin Wednesday night with much anticipation from us hockey fans. The HabsWorld writers provided their predictions on this last playoff series for 2015.
Stanley Cup Finals
Chicago Blackhawks vs Tampa Bay Lightning
Brian La Rose predicts: Lightning in 6
Alexander Létourneau predicts: Blackhawks in 6
Norm Szcyrek predicts: Blackhawks in 6
(Brian) I don’t often get too excited about teams in the final but this is one matchup I’m quite interested in seeing. Skill vs skill, that’s something we don’t get too often and I’m certainly looking forward to the change.
Both teams rely on heavy production from their top six and if that trend continues, it may be the bottom six players that make the difference. If that happens, it’s to Chicago’s benefit as deploying the likes of Patrick Sharp and Antoine Vermette in the bottom six is a very nice luxury to have, one the Lightning can’t match.
Chicago’s depth on defence is concerning but they’ve been able to get by with rolling basically two pairings all playoffs long and I think they can get away with that for a little while yet. Tampa Bay, meanwhile, has more depth but like the Hawks, there’s a big gap between the second and third pairings. I wouldn’t give either side a huge edge here.
If there’s one element that could go in Tampa’s favour, it’s goaltending. Corey Crawford has played better after a rough first round but Ben Bishop is good enough to steal the Lighting a couple of games if need be.
Experience may very well play a role and that’s something the Blackhawks have a big edge in. Add that to their better attack and I think it’s a recipe for a Chicago victory. That’s why I’m picking Tampa Bay in 6. Why? My gut instinct for predicting series has been terrible this year so I may as well pick the opposite of what I actually think will happen.
(Alex) I misjudged a few teams in the last round, with Chicago making harder work out of Anaheim than I expected and Tampa Bay making it to the dance altogether. While I thought the Lightning doomed themselves after their first round series, I’ve severely underestimated their young team and Ben Bishop’s ability to win the important games. Their resilience is impressive and that’s where I see them winning a few games after likely being outclassed in a few matchups. For Chicago to lose this series, I would expect a severe self destruction would need to be in the cards. Their core players are among the league’s elite and their supporting cast is beyond reproach. I’ve seen plenty of analysts write the fate of their top four defensemen as waiting to crumble under huge minutes played as early as midway through the Anaheim series, but I’d look behind them at Corey Crawford if there was to be a letdown from this team – and I’m not saying there will be. This should be another terrific final, but dynasty talk has been thrown around quite a bit, and I expect the Blackhawks to answer the call.
(Norm) First off, I really think this series could go either way. Many Tampa Bay players really uppped their game in the last series against the New York Rangers. Ben Bishop impressed me with his second game seven shutout in this years playoffs, which is remarkable in the modern hockey era. Coach Jon Cooper made an excellent coaching decision to shift Steven Stamkos to the wing which has really kickstarted him offensively. The Triplets line of Kucherov, Johnson and Palat have been consistently producing offence and a general pain for the opposition to defend. Tampa has the home ice advantage for the final series, but so far in this years playoffs they have only been 5 for 5 at home.
Meanwhile Chicago dispatched Anaheim in an exciting seven game series, with their core players like Jonathan Toewes, Patrick Kane and Duncan Keith leading their team to the narrow victory. Their post season record is very impressive, and their mix of experience, youth and depth is unequalled in the NHL at this time. I expect Chicago will prevail in this final but Tampa will not make it easy for them pushing them to 6 games. The Blackhawks will win their 3rd Stanley Cup in the past 6 seasons, making them the equivalent to a dynasty in the NHLs salary cap era.