Well folks after a grueling 82-game regular season schedule and three rounds of intense playoff hockey, we have finally arrived at the Stanley Cup finals where we will witness two deserving teams battling it out for hockey’s biggest prize. The Tampa Bay Lightning may not have been one of the most popular Stanley Cup teams at the beginning of the season but it’s very hard to argue against them being one of the best teams in the NHL this season. On the other side of the ice is the Chicago Blackhawks who have the opportunity to raise the Stanley Cup for the third time in the last six seasons, something that definitely qualifies as a dynasty. Chicago is the team with experience on their side as their roster is full of players with Stanley Cup rings, while the Lighting are the youngest team in the postseason but fully aware of the challenge ahead. They also have home ice advantage to begin the series so let’s take a closer look at Game 1 from Amalie Arena in Tampa Bay.
Chicago Blackhawks @ Tampa Bay Lightning
My Pick – OVER 5 (-140)
The Tampa Bay Lightning were the NHL’s best regular season home team this season and that helped earn them home ice advantage to begin the Stanley Cup finals as they play host to the Chicago Blackhawks tonight for Game 1. Each game is likely to be so close and obviously at this stage in the season it is anybody’s game to win out there so I have decided to take a look at the goal total for this game at least. Tampa Bay has been receiving lights-out production from their top six forwards as they have accounted for 45 of their 55 goals in the playoffs so far while Chicago has ridden a more balanced attack, but that’s not to say they haven’t been producing plenty of goals. Chicago is averaging 3.29 goals per game in the postseason and were able to outscore an Anaheim Ducks team who actually averaged more with 3.56 per game to reach the finals. Unlike Tampa Bay, Chicago is getting offensive contributions from just about everyone on their roster as players like Andrew Shaw (four goals) and Brent Seabrook (six goals) are examples of just that. As mentioned, Tampa Bay’s top six forwards have been doing most of the damage but that hasn’t exactly been an issue as they have been a powerful group. Tyler Johnson leads the playoffs in scoring with 21 points while his line that consists of himself, Ondrej Palat and Nikita Kucherov have combined to score 28 goals in the playoffs. Tampa Bay has their powerplay clicking at 22.2% in the playoffs and are likely to capitalize on a Chicago penalty kill that has struggled to the tune of a 75.5% mark. It’s unusual to see a team in the finals with such a poor penalty kill but again Chicago’s offense has been so good in the playoffs it has managed to render that number meaningless to this point. We have seen both goaltender struggle at times in the postseason as well. Remember Crawford was temporarily bumped from starting in the first round against Nashville and Ben Bishop was torched on home ice in the Lightning’s last series against the Rangers. With all that said I will go with the OVER 5 tonight and watch Game 1 of what should be a long and intense Stanley Cup final.