Black­hawks, Light­ning open Stan­ley Cup Fi­nal

The China Post - - SPORTS -

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:

Speed Kills

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.

Limited Num­bers

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.”

AP

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.

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