Season Series: Tampa Bay, 1-0-1
Regular Season Power Play
Lightning 18.8% (14th), Blackhawks 17.6% (20th)
Postseason Power Play
Lightning 16-72 (22.2%), Blackhawks 10-51 (19.6%)
Regular Season Penalty Killing
Lightning 83.7% (eighth), Blackhawks 83.4% (10th)
Postseason Penalty Killing
Lightning 56-69 (81.2%), Blackhawks 37-49 (75.5%)
Regular Season Leading Scorers
Lightning, Tyler Johnson 12-9--21.
Blackhawks, Patrick Kane 10-10--20.
The Blackhawks shook off the Ducks' physicality during the West finals and seemed to get stronger as the series progressed, demonstrating their ability to handle whatever is thrown at them. "I think that's the experience this team has going through certain situations throughout the years," said goaltender Corey Crawford (2.56 goals-against average, .919 save percentage). "You go through stuff that maybe some teams tighten up but when you go through that again and again it seems like no matter what happens, no matter what situation occurs during a game, we're able to keep playing and not let it affect what we're doing on the ice from shift to shift." Toews (nine goals, 18 points) willed them to victory, after the Ducks took a 3-2 series lead, and was helped by being reunited with Kane, who had a goal and five points in the last two games. Chicago again will rely heavily on its top four defensemen but as long as Duncan Keith is upright they will have and edge of Tampa Bay.
Dubbed the "triplets," the line of left wing Ondrej Palat, center Johnson and right wing Nikita Kucherov is dynamic and productive. Johnson, who went undrafted is the playoff leader in goals and points, and Kucherov (nine goals, 19 points) isn't far behind. Goaltender Ben Bishop (2.15 goals-against average, .920 save percentage) excelled under pressure by shutting out Detroit in Game 7 of the first round and the New York Rangers in Game 7 of the East finals. "They remind me a lot of us -- a lot of speed," he said of the Blackhawks. "Both teams want to play really fast. I think it's going to be important to make those guys play defense." Tampa Bay's defense drops off after Victor Hedman and Anton Stalman but it has clamped down when it had to. Stamkos (seven goals, 17 points) said his team considers the Blackhawks a model. "You see what they've been able to do the last five, six years, it's been impressive. That's what we see ourselves doing," he said.
Helene Elliot's prediction
The Stanley Cup will stay in the West when the Blackhawks win for the third time in six seasons. They will be tested by the Lightning's speed but their experience, scoring depth and leadership will prevail. The Lightning will be back in the near future, but this isn't Tampa Bay's year. Blackhawks in six.