Favored by NHL odds to win the 2015 Stanley Cup, the Chicago Blackhawks are competing in their third Stanley Cup Final since 2010. Here's our best bet as they go against the Lightning.
Experience Versus Youth
There's a saying along the lines that youth and talent are no match for old age and treachery. The Chicago Blackhawks are certainly hoping this age old axiom holds true in this year's Stanley Cup Finals. As even the casual fan knows, the Blackhawks are one of the last two teams standing for the third time over the last six seasons while the Lightning have only one Stanley Cup to their credit in the history of the franchise.
Ironically the only player left from that 2004 championship team will be in a Blackhawks uniform as Brad Richards took home the Conn Smythe Trophy that year as the Stanley Cup MVP. Richards has been a gun for hire since his tenure with Tampa Bay ended in 2008. Tours as a member of the Dallas Stars, New York Rangers (including last year's Stanley Cup runner-up) and this season as a Blackhawk prove that Richards is indeed a valuable asset to have on a championship contender.
The Blackhawks are now accustomed to the big stage and as we all know there is no substitute for experience. Conversely, being young is also believing you are bulletproof. How many of us harken back to the audacity of our youth as a smirk crawls across our face recalling the blissful ignorance of yesteryear? And yet don't we all feel a tinge of nostalgia looking back at this sepia-toned visage that has faded over time where the errors of our ways are muted in greys while our victories radiate in glorious, vibrant hues?
The Lightning may very well embody that youthful portrait we have mentally painted and bring a bold, brash cockiness that will mitigate any qualms they have about facing off against a perennial powerhouse like the Chicago Blackhawks. But will the wizened hand of maturity and experience tip the balance of power over the bloom of youth and unbridled vigor? I say, let the games begin.
NHL Series Prop Odds
PaddyPower.com is hanging intriguing NHL odds on the following:
Tampa Bay to win Game 1 and the Series +287
Chicago to win Game 1 and the Series +262
Tampa Bay to win Game 1 but lose Series +400
Chicago to win Game 1 but lose Series +600
It should be noted that Game 1 will be held in Tampa and a quick glance at historical NHL Stanley Cup data demonstrates that the team winning Game 1 will sweep the series 18.3 percent of the time. It goes on to illustrate the team winning Game 1 will win the series a whopping 69.6 percent of the time. As of this writing the Game 1 NHL odds opened with Tampa Bay the favorite at -120 but it has spiked virtually across the board to as high as -130 at GTBets.com.
The Lightning dropped an early season decision to the Blackhawks 3-2 in a shootout but redeemed themselves on February 27th with a 4-0 blanking of the Western Conference power. Tampa Bay’s Steve Stamkos is the most dangerous skater on the ice and his move to wing has allowed him the space to unleash his wicked shot. The Triplets (Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat and Mikita Kucherov) are greased lightning and have become increasingly confident as the playoffs have worn on. While the Tampa top lines are lethal the bottom lines are simply taking up space hoping to avoid a defensive letdown. That is the advantage that the Blackhawks will hold as they have depth spread amongst all four lines.
Defensively we see that the Blackhawks hold all the cards. Tampa Bay is an offensive juggernaut but the Hawks have the blueliners to keep even the most dangerous teams in check. Yet, that defense did nothing to deter the Lightning from laying a 4-0 smack-down the last time the teams met.
Neither goaltender has been a series stealer. Ben Bishop has had two Game 7 shutouts but has also been victimized by poor play in allowing five goals three times thus far. Corey Crawford of Chicago had a 3.14 GAA in his series against the Ducks but he has also been stellar at times. This is not a battle of two sizzling goaltenders but a match between two netminders who seem to pick and choose the date and time to steal a game.
Though the Hawks have experience the Lightning have swagger. I am expecting this year to be the beginning of many more Stanley Cup runs for Tampa Bay. A new day has dawned and a new king will be crowned. Place your NHL picks on the Lightning win this one in six games.
NHL Series Pick: Lightning win Game 1 and the Series +287