Blackhawks -145 Favorites To Win Stanley Cup Over Lightning
The Chicago Blackhawks have won two Stanley Cups this decade behind the NHL’s best 1-2 punch of Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane and the Hawks are -145 series favorites to cement their dynasty in the 2015 Cup Finals against Tampa Bay. The Lightning are in the Cup for only the second time ever, winning it in 2004 vs. Calgary. The Conn Smythe Trophy winner that year? Brad Richards. He’s now a second-line center for Chicago.
Plenty Of Star Power In Series
Toews, Kane, Marian Hossa, Duncan Keith and Corey Crawford have carried the Blackhawks through three rounds in the Western Conference, including a 5-3 victory against the Anaheim Ducks in Game 7 of the conference final on Saturday. If there’s been a measurable difference in Crawford’s performance as the playoffs have gone on, it’s how much harder opponents have had to work to score, especially in the Western Conference Final against the Ducks.
Of the 16 goals he gave up prior to that series, only one was the result of a screen, two came on deflections and seven involved lateral movement. Against the Ducks, 10 goals included a screen, six were tipped and 14 forced him to move laterally, including nine passes.
Tampa Bay’s top-six forwards, led by the “Triplets” line of Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat and Nikita Kucherov, and captain Steven Stamkos, have scored more than 80 percent of the Lightning’s goals in the first three rounds, and Ben Bishop leads all goaltenders in this year’s playoffs with three shutouts, including 2-0 victories on the road in Game 5 and Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final against the New York Rangers. Bishop is best when his movements are controlled, staying over his knees and shifting into plays and shots, rotating into lateral plays and keeping his big frame squared up on shooters, just as he did to rob the Rangers’ Ryan McDonagh midway through Game 7, stopping and controlling one of the Rangers best scoring chances.
Among the emerging trends during the playoffs has been the number of rebound goals Bishop has let in. The total isn’t alarming, with 10 of his 42 postseason goals-against scored on a rebound, but eight of those came against the Rangers in the conference final.
Chicago is 32-0-0 in the regular season and playoffs when leading after two periods. The Lightning are 9-0 in the postseason when scoring first, and each of Bishop’s three shutouts has been a 2-0 win. The one major edge Chicago has is postseason experience. The teams split two regular-season meetings, each winning at home.
Toews is the +350 favorite to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP. He won the award in 2010. The Lightning’s Johnson is +400, followed by Kane at +450 (he won the award in 2013).
Game 1 Trends
Chicago plays up to the moment, but the Hawks don’t bring as much intensity as they should early in playoff series. In Games 1-3 of the playoffs under Coach Joel Quenneville, the Hawks are 29-28; in Games 4-7 they are an incredible 40-14. Chicago is 2-1 in Game 1s this year, winning in Round 1 at Nashville and Round 2 at home vs. Minnesota. They lost Game 1 of the West Finals in Anaheim, 4-1. Tampa had the best home record in the NHL during the year at 32-8-1. Tampa is 1-2 in Game 1s these playoffs. It lost 3-2 at home to Detroit in Round 1, won 2-1 in overtime at Montreal in Round 2 and then lost 2-1 at the Rangers in the conference finals.
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