This year's Stanley Cup Finals match-up: Chicago Blackhawks vs Tampa Bay Lightning.
When I wrote up my Stanley Cup Finals predictions back in 2013
, I constructed head-to-head comparisons on the forwards, defense, goaltending, special teams, and coaching.
This year, I was inspired by this article
to take my predictions in a slightly different direction.
Who wins and in how many games?
Blackhawks in six (although I am tempted to say five).
My playoff predictions record is 11-3 so far this year (see here
, and here
). The funny thing is that two of my mis-picks were due to selecting against Tampa. Go figure, eh? Hopefully that will change this round.
NOTE: Adam is actually 14-0 in his predictions this year! How about that?
I understand that the Lightning are a fast, skilled team with a lot of scoring firepower. However, the Western Conference was much stronger overall than the Eastern Conference. I would have favored any of several Western Conference teams over Tampa. Additionally, the Lightning are very, very young. The Hawks have literally about a hundred more man-years of playoff experience.
While I will certainly take the Hawks winning another championship in whatever way they can, I would LOVE to see them finally clinch on home ice. Can you imagine the mayhem!?!?!?
The Conn Smythe Winner will be...
Duncan Keith. The guy is an absolute beast and his impact in the game has been priceless. I've never seen anyone shoulder the amount of minutes that Keith has, amidst multiple triple-OT games, yet look like he is barely breaking a sweat. Did a group of scientists create him in some top-secret hockey-gene laboratory somewhere, unbeknownst to the rest of the NHL?
|Duncan Keith stepping onto the ice|
Very strong honorable mentions go to Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews for their dazzling offensive firepower, leadership, and uncanny ability to take the game to the next level.
The series' bigger X-factor will be...
Team depth and the number of players who can step up when it matters the most.
When I thought about potential X-factors, there were so many choices. Tops on my list were goaltending and special teams. But - I think the Hawks are loaded with strong players who have not fully showcased their talents in this year's playoffs (Bryan Bickell and Patrick Sharp are the first two that come to mind). I look forward to seeing some of these guys now impacting their presence with authority.
|Everyone remember this moment during a 17-second stretch from 2013? |
Bickell's face tells you everything you need to know about how much the championship means.
What will we remember most about this Stanley Cup Final?
This Final will continue to solidify the Blackhawks as a modern-day dynasty in the salary cap era. Three championships in six years? Five conference finals in seven years? Bring it home, baby.
Whose legacy will be impacted the most?
Jonathan Toews. The captain of all captains. He can literally will the entire team to victory. He is unparalleled in his poise, leadership, and ability to raise his game at all ends of the ice.
|Toews is one of the best to ever wear the "C" on his jersey.|
Honorable mentions: Coach Joel Quenneville for his consistent mastermind successes while juggling a bevvy of roster moves; Stan Bowman both for constructing championship teams and for being able to rebuild/retool so quickly; and Duncan Keith for all the reasons I mentioned above.
Other special mentions:
I think Brent Seabrook and Brandon Saad are having incredible playoff runs.
I wear his jersey with pride!
(Adam is very proud of the fact that Brandon is from Pittsburgh, too)
I also give enormous kudos to Niklas Hjalmarsson and Johnny Oduya for their yeoman work on the blue line. Huge credit to Corey Crawford, too, for his exceptional resilience in the net.
Now, let's talk about tickets.
- What is up with Tampa and their ridiculous ticket policies? Way to shoot yourself in the foot. I agree with this commentary that it's a pathetic strategy. Why is the NHL even allowing it? #FireGaryBettman
- Tickets for the Finals games at the United Center went on sale at noon today. Standing-room-only tickets started at $140, and the nosebleed seats started at $285. Tickets on the glass had a $1,200 face value. (Note that these figures are both quoted BEFORE all of Ticketmaster's hefty taxes and fees). Ouch.
- Against my wallet's better judgment, I took a deep breath and at noon I did valiantly attempt to get tickets to Game 6. No luck. Not even close. The Ticketmaster screen might as well have laughed in my face. That's how bad it was. But hey, nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?
- We won't even begin to talk about the prices on the secondary market. Last I checked, they started at about $975 a pop.
- I look forward to enjoying the games from the comfort of my living room couch, or maybe one of the local Hawks bars on Madison. On the bright side, at least I can go to the bathroom whenever I want to, right Tazer?
I can't wait for the games to begin tomorrow night.