Raising the Stanley Cup has been the goal of thousands, and the men on these two teams are fighting for the opportunity. These players have been through the gauntlet to reach the pinnacle of their season: the Stanley Cup Final. Everyone has their favorite team. Whether it’s their home team, an adopted team, or the lesser of two evils after their team didn’t make it to the playoffs or the Final it all comes down to these two teams and we are here to give you the facts. We will tell you these team’s strengths and weakness. For three rounds each team has reassessed itself after each game: tweaking, improving, and stumbling as they worked towards the right formula to make it to this point, and now we will see how these teams match up.


Both of these teams rely on speed and puck possession. Chicago is 32-0-0 in the regular season and playoffs when leading after two periods. The Lightning is 9-0 in the post season when scoring first, and each of Bishop’s three shutouts has been a 2-0 win. Experience is a major edge for Chicago; the core of their team won the Stanley Cup in 2010 and 2013. Tampa Bay hasn’t made the Final since 2004, when it won its only championship. Tampa Bay went 1-0-1 against Chicago during the regular season. Both the Lightning and the Blackhawks faced teams with style of play that is contrary to the sorts they will be facing from each other; especially the Blackhawks who played a bigger and more aggressive Anaheim Ducks in the Western Conference Final. Both teams made it this far largely because of their versatility and ability to adapt to the style of play that they face while not downplaying their own style in the process.

Chicago Blackhawks:

What they need to win? Blackhawks’ top defense of Keith, Hjalmarsson, Seabrook and Oduya will need to play the way they did against the Ducks. Clearing shooting lanes for Crawford so he can have clear line of sight on the shots he faces. The question is: Are they are too worn out from the Ducks to do that against the Lightning?

In the Crease: Blackhawks Corey Crawford ranked 2nd in the NHL with a 2.27 goals against average during the regular season. Crawford was benched during the opening round, but he rebounded against the Wild and the Ducks. He is 9-5 with a .919 save percentage and a 2.56 goals-against average during the 2015 playoffs. The Blackhawks went to backup Scott Darling during the Nashville series. Darling won Game 1 in relief and started Games 3 through 6 before Crawford won in relief of him to close out the series. Darling had strong numbers as the backup this season. Crawford could join Los Angeles Kings Jonathan Quick as the only starting goalies to win the Stanley Cup twice in the past 14 seasons.

Forwards: The Blackhawks boast depth and talent in terms of their forwards. Patrick Kane returned from a fractured clavicle injury and returned in time for the Western Conference First Round and now has 10 goals and 20 points in 17 games, and is showing no ill effects from the injury. Kane moved to the top line for the final two games of the Western Conference Final, joining Jonathan Toews and Brandon Saad to form a line that was a devastating blow to the Ducks. Toews is second on the Blackhawks with nine goals and 18 points, including five goals in the last four games against the Ducks. Kane can sometimes be found on the second line with Brad Richards and Bryan Bickell. Richards was drafted by the Lightning and won the Conn Smythe Trophy in 2004 when Tampa Bay won the Stanley Cup Final. Marian Hossa was the player who moved down to the second line for Kane and he remains one of the top two-way forwards in the NHL. The spectacularly talented Patrick Sharp has played on the third line with Antoine Vermette and Teuvo Teravainen line for all but one game since the start of the second round. Teravainen has shown adeptness with two-way play and passing and has been a great compliment to Sharp on that line. Marcus Kruger, Andrew Shaw and Andrew Desjardins make up the fourth line with players who are talented enough to play third line, and Kruger and Shaw find themselves active on special teams. If they weren’t already stacked enough they have Kris Versteeg and Joakim Nordstrom in reserve if needed.

Defensemen: Chicago lost Michal Rozsival to a broken ankle in Game 4 of a second-round. Coach Joel Quenneville was already using Kimmo Timonen sparingly, but he has been leaning on the top four even more without Rozsival. Fortunately the Blackhawks have one of the best groups of top-four defensemen in the League. Duncan Keith is a two-time Norris Trophy winner and is playing better than ever. Keith has 18 points in 17 games and is averaging more than 31 minutes per game. Brent Seabrook has been Keith’s partner for a long time, but since Rozsival’s injury Seabrook has been matched with Niklas Hjalmarsson and are each averaging more than 26 minutes per game. Seabrook has six goals and 10 points, while Hjalmarsson is probably the Blackhawks’ second-best defenseman at this point. Johnny Oduya struggled a bit during the regular season, but has been solid in the playoffs and averaging more than 25 minutes per game. Timonen was a trade-deadline addition, and remarkably returned after dealing with blood clot issues, but David Rundblad and Kyle Cumiskey passed him on the depth chart during the conference finals. Rundblad had a rocky Game 1 and was benched for solid and puck savvy Cumiskey, but returned later in the series and played better on limited ice time. Lightning would do well to torment the Blackhawks bottom defensemen with their speed as opposed to the Ducks strategy of going after the top defensemen.

Power Play: Chicago converted less than 18 percent of their power plays during the regular season, but have boosted that to 19.6 percent in the postseason. Blackhawks have so much depth that they can use their two units nearly equally. The top unit usually consists of Toews, Kane and Shaw up front with Sharp and Keith on the points. Their second unit consists of Hossa, Saad and Bickell up front with Richards and Seabrook on the points. Toews leads the Blackhawks with three power-play goals.

Penalty Kill: The Blackhawks had one of the top penalty-killing teams during the regular season (83.4 percent), but have fallen a bit during the post season. The PK is 75.5 percent through three rounds. Quenneville relies heavily on the top-four forwards Kruger, Toews, Hossa and Saad almost exclusively on the penalty kill. When one of them went in the box during the conference final, the Blackhawks tried to kill off the two minutes using only the other three. In addition Timonen, Cumiskey and Rundblad have combined for 51 seconds of PK time in the playoffs.


Tampa Bay Lightning:

What they need to win? Tampa Bay has speed, finesse, and power up front, but to win they must play defensively from the beginning. This team can find the back of the net easily enough, but keeping the Blackhawks out of their zone and out of their net will need to be their priority.

In the Crease: Ben Bishop had a goals against average of 2.51 in the regular season ranking 12th in the NHL regular season. Although Chicago’s Corey Crawford had a better regular season 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 became the first goalie in NHL history to send his team to the Cup Final with a road shutout, and he became the first goalie in NHL history to have shutouts in each of his first two Game 7 appearances. Bishop is 7-1 with a 1.25 goals-against average, .951 save percentage and his two shutouts games were after losses in the playoffs. He is 12-8 with a .920 save percentage and 2.15 GAA overall. Bishop does have his faults allowing five goals in each of three games in the Eastern Conference Final.

Forwards: Lightning’s top-six forwards have scored 45 of Tampa Bay’s 55 goals in the first three rounds. They have received four goals from the remaining eight forwards that have played at least one game in the playoffs. Tampa Bay’s 2nd line; the “Triplets” have contributed greatly to the team’s success. Johnson leads the Lightning with 12 goals and 21 points. Kucherov is tied for first on the team with 10 assists and is second with 19 points. Palat has seven goals and 15 points. The Lightning’s first line consists of center Valtteri Filppula, Steven Stamkos on the right wing, and Alex Killorn on the left wing. Stamkos started the playoffs in the middle as he’s been a center for most of his career, but was struggling to score, so Coach Jon Cooper moved him to the wing. Stamkos responded with seven goals and 14 points in his next 12 games. He scored in four straight games against the Rangers. Killorn has seven goals, including two game-winners, and 16 points; while Filppula has 11 points. Tampa Bay typically uses a lineup featuring 11 forwards and seven defensemen. The remaining five forwards’, Brian Boyle, Ryan Callahan, Cedric Paquette, J.T. Brown, and Brenden Morrow, jobs fall more into checking and keeping momentum than scoring and Paquette and Boyle play key roles on the penalty kill. Vladislav Namestnikov, Jonathan Marchessault, and Jonathan Drouin have also have had ice time at times throughout the playoffs.

Defensemen: Tampa Bay boasts one of the best top pairings in the NHL in Victor Hedman and Anton Stralman. Hedman was the No. 2 pick in the 2009 NHL Draft is coming of age this postseason. He has been excellent on both ends of the ice and his skating has been spectacular. He leads the Lightning defensemen with 10 points and a plus-11 rating, and he has a 54.98 shot-attempts percentage (SAT). Stralman compliments Hedman with a steady, calming way of play and demeanor that allows Hedman to go unrestrained. Stralman has seven points and a 53.50 SAT percentage. The second pair of Jason Garrison and Braydon Coburn provides physicality, stick handling, and heavy shots. They have taken on more than any of the team’s other defensive pairings (Garrison 41.95 SAT; Coburn 39.36 SAT). Tampa bay’s third pair; Matthew Carle and Andrej Sustr have had problems allowing turnovers, but has been a steady and physical anchor for the team.

Power Play: Tampa Bay did not get a power play in Game 7 against the Rangers, but their PP was effective through the first six games of the series, going 7-for-22. Tampa Bay’s power play in the playoffs is 16-for-72; that includes a 0-for-23 run from Game 3 against the Red Wings through Game 1 against the Canadiens, and in the 12 games since they have gone 14-for-38. Palat has four power-play goals, Kucherov has two, and Johnson, Stamkos, and Filppula each have two. Johnson and Stamkos each have eight points on the power play.

Penalty Kill: Against the Rangers the Lightning struggled on the penalty kill until Game 7, when they killed off two penalties in the second period when the score was 0-0. The Lightning’s PK against the Rangers was 17-for-24 (70.8 percent). The Lightning’s PK was 39-for-45 (86.6 percent) before the conference final. However, Tampa Bay has three shorthanded goals, the same number as the Blackhawks.

Follow @TristinHuntamer and @BandBHockey of Twitter