Tonight, the Chicago Blackhawks and the Tampa Bay Lightning will kick off the Stanley Cup Finals at Amalie Arena in Tampa, Florida. It’s been a long and difficult road to get to where they are now — including both teams winning tough Game 7s in the Conference Finals.
The Blackhawks and Lightning are the best of the best this season, but only one team can hoist the Cup. And in 2015, it’s going to be Chicago. Here are the six reasons I think the Blackhawks will defeat the Lighting in six games to win their third Stanley Cup in six years.
1. The Chicago Blackhawks have been to the Stanley Cup Finals two other times in the last five seasons and won in both 2010 and 2013. The only time the Tampa Bay Lightning played in a finals, in 2004, was also the only time they won a Cup.
2. Chicago is built for the postseason. The Blackhawks have made it to the playoffs every single year since 2008-09. Tampa Bay, meanwhile, has been more uneven. In that same span, the Lightning have only played in two postseasons.
3. Many of the Blackhawks’ star players, like Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp, and Duncan Keith, have been to the Cup before. Fifteen out of 31 current Blackhawks players were a part of the 2013 Stanley Cup winning team. Eight of those 15 were also part of the 2010 Stanley Cup winning team. Tampa Bay star Steven Stamkos is an exciting, dynamic player. But this is only his third postseason and his first trip to the finals.
4. The Lightning has a high-octane offense. But the Blackhawks can score multiple goals very quickly — and in high-pressure situations. With just 76 seconds left in Game 6 in the 2013 Stanley Cup Finals, the Blackhawks were losing 2-1 to the Boston Bruins. But then the Blackhawks scored two goals 17 seconds apart to win the game and claim the Cup.
5. The Blackhawks have a solid — and reliable — head coach. Coach Joel Quenneville started coaching the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2008-2009 season. Lightning head coach has been with the team since the 2012-13 season and before this postseason had only one trip to the playoffs under his belt, in 2013-14 when the team was swept in the first round by Montreal.
6. The Blackhawks come from a city filled with devoted fans that stand by their team 100 percent. Practically everywhere you look right now in Chicago, you will see somebody sporting a Blackhawks shirt, jersey, or hat. In 2014, the highest selling jersey in the NHL belonged to Blackhawk right wing player Patrick Kane. That same year, Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews had the third highest selling jersey in the NHL.
The Stanley Cup Finals begin tonight at 8 p.m. You can catch in on NBC.
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