Blackhawks, Lightning open Stanley Cup Final
The Chicago Blackhawks headed south this week to secure a dynasty, and the Tampa Bay Lightning are the only obstacle left.
Jonathan Toews and his teammates have raised the Stanley Cup twice in the past five seasons, compiling a wealth of big-game accolades in seven years as an elite team. They are just four wins away from a third NHL title that would establish them as the most accomplished club of their era.
The Blackhawks shrug off the weight of history, preferring to focus on the opener of the Stanley Cup Final on Wednesday.
The hungry Lightning look at Chicago’s achievements and see everything they want. After surviving a perilous 20-game run through the Eastern Conference playoffs to earn the franchise’s second trip to the final, uncharted territory doesn’t scare this young Tampa Bay core.
While the Blackhawks’ roster is dominated by two-time champions, Valtteri Filppula is the Lightning’s only player with a Stanley Cup ring. Most of Chicago’s stars are still largely in their primes, but Tampa Bay has the youngest roster in the postseason. Chicago coach Joel Quenneville has two rings, while Tampa Bay’s Jon Cooper has coached just two full NHL seasons.
Here are the other key story lines to watch when the final gets underway on a hot, humid day in Florida:
Chicago and Tampa Bay have many contrasts, but share an eye-catching similarity: They love to play fast, aggressive hockey. Patrick Kane and the Blackhawks make a habit of outskating teams to utilize their unmatched skill, but Tampa Bay’s talented collection of young forwards is among the league’s quickest. “I don’t know how fast you can get, but this will probably be as fast as it goes,” Tampa Bay goalie Ben Bishop said.
The Blackhawks’ famed championship depth only goes so far. Chicago relied heavily on just four defensemen in the Western Conference finals, and Duncan Keith played astonishingly heavy minutes in the series. It’s illogical to think the heavy workload — and the pounding administered by the Ducks in the last round — will have no effect on Keith, Brent Seabrook, Johnny Oduya and Niklas Hjalmarsson, but not much is logical about Keith’s brilliance. “I don’t have a stopwatch out there, and I don’t know what the times are,” Keith said. “I’ve always played a lot of minutes.”
Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tevin Reese reaches for a pass during organized team activities at the team’s NFL training facility in Cincinnati, Ohio, Tuesday, June 2.