Well I believe that was the first time I’ve ever seen a team win a series, 2 games to 5. It just goes to show you how vital experience is, and how vital a winning environment is. The Blackhawks just have that ultimate confidence, that swagger, that they knew they were going to find a way to win this series. When they need to, they go to a level that other teams can’t match. And the Ducks are a big, fast, young team which have all the ingredients. But they also have no confidence or swagger when things get tight with other elite teams. And that was the difference.
Why have I yet to talk about the Stanley Cup final? What do you mean? I JUST did a Stanley Cup final review in that first paragraph. I’m KIDDING…sort of…
But let’s be real, for the 4th time in 6 seasons the Eastern conference looks like the B side of this tournament. The 2 seasons I’m leaving out are 2011 and 2013 and to be really honest about it, 2011 looked like that as well. Going into that series the Canucks were vastly superior team and then folded when things got tough against a far less talented but much more mentally tough Bruins team.
I do think this Stanley Cup final matchup is going to optically be the best series we could have asked for this season. Tampa plays with so much speed, as do the Hawks. The goaltenders are great at times, and terrible at times, which should give us at least a few real high scoring games. And you have 2 of the 3 most exciting players in the NHL on each team in Stamkos and Kane. The NHL should be pretty happy with this. Sure, the Rangers vs the Hawks would have been enormous for the ratings. But this series will draw real well.
And even though I don’t think the Lightning are in the same league as the Blackhawks, I do think they have a shot. A lot would need to go right for that to happen. They would need to get some bounces early on to build their confidence and get that belief going that they can do it. And the Hawks simply can’t have much left in the tank after 3 straight deep playoff runs and coming off a physically brutal series against the Ducks.
But if you want a good comparison in styles, look at Minnesota and Tampa. Both teams have elite speed, and have good but inconsistent goaltending (in the playoffs). The Blackhawks swept Minny. And if Tampa had trouble keeping the Rangers off the board in 3 of those 7 games, a team that is offensively challenged, then how the heck are they going to hold off the high scoring Hawks?
So I’m taking the Hawks in 6. I took the Hawks at the start of the season, stuck with them in the playoffs, and I have little reason to move off of that now. I do believe they will drop the first game of the series. Much like last season with the Rangers, the Lightning DESPERATELY need game 1 to have any shot here. At home, Chicago is on shorter rest and will have a lot more travel, you just have to take advantage of that and I believe they will. If the Blackhawks win game 1, this will be a sweep. But I’ll say Tampa wins game 1, but the Hawks come back and take the next 3. Tampa stays alive in game 5, but Chicago being so experienced don’t leave anything to chance and blow out the Lightning in game 6 to win the Cup at home.
Having said all this, it is now highly unlikely this series goes anything like this.
And before I wrap this up, can I just say that the Hawks are on the verge of a dynasty? People can hate that all they want because it’s not 4 in 5 years or 3 in 4 or anything like that. But I wrote this a few years ago that this is the type of run that should now be considered a dynasty. We live in a cap world now. The Blackhawks should they win this series, are an extremely lucky Alec Martinez bounce away from winning 3 in a row and 4 in 6 years. I’m sorry if you disagree, but it is a dynasty to me. And with all due respect to the “Brad Richards returning to where it all began” storyline, the debate of whether or not the Blackhawks are a dynasty will be the biggest storyline of this final.
I don’t know if the series will go long, but I am expecting all the games to be at a break neck pace and REALLY fun to watch!
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