Blackhawks

Blackhawks-Lightning: Who has edge in the Stanley Cup Final?

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Blackhawks-Lightning: Who has edge in the Stanley Cup Final?

Here we are again, folks, another Stanley Cup Final featuring the Blackhawks.

It’s getting to be a habit, with the Blackhawks making their third trip here in the past six seasons. Awaiting them is the young, fast and talented Tampa Bay Lightning, who came back from a 3-2 series deficit against the Detroit Red Wings in the first round and beat the New York Rangers on enemy ice in the Eastern Conference Final.

The Lightning will be a challenge. But you know this story well, it’s about who has the edges in particular categories. So with Game 1 quickly approaching, let’s look at those edges.

FORWARDS

Neither of these teams lacks firepower. The Blackhawks combined some of theirs in the later Western Conference games when Patrick Kane joined Jonathan Toews on the top line. Toews was stellar against the Anaheim Ducks, scoring four goals in his final three games against them. Brandon Saad has also lifted his game as the playoffs continued; he has six goals this postseason and his speed and scoring potential were problematic for the Ducks.

[MORE HAWKS: Stanley Cup Final feeling never gets old for Blackhawks]

As for the Lightning, Steven Stamkos obviously wasn’t hurting early in the postseason; he was just off to a slow start. He picked up in the Eastern Conference Final, during which he recorded four goals and three assists in seven games. Tyler Johnson has been the big surprise and he still leads the Lightning with 21 postseason points, including 12 goals. His linemates Nikita Kucherov and Ondrej Palat aren’t hurting, either, with nine and seven goals, respectively. Have fun with both these teams’ forwards, goaltenders. EDGE: Even

DEFENSEMEN

There were concerns of how the top four defensemen would handle the extra minutes in Michal Rozsival’s absence, as well as the hits they took from the Ducks. From all appearances, they held up just fine. Duncan Keith seems to get better despite the plethora of minutes and Brent Seabrook is once again a clutch playoff performer, scoring six goals to compliment his work on the other side of the puck.

[MORE HAWKS: Jonathan Toews continues to lead by example for Blackhawks]

Tampa’s top pair of Victor Hedman and Anton Stralman has been strong. Hedman has nine assists to go along with his steady defensive play. The Lightning used seven defensemen during the Eastern Conference Final with good results. Whether or not they take the same approach against the Blackhawks remains to be seen. Regardless, the visitor gets the nod. EDGE: Blackhawks

GOALTENDERS

This is an interesting category, mainly because both goaltenders have had their triumphant and forgettable moments. Corey Crawford had an awful start to the postseason before regaining the net against the Minnesota Wild. His best game was arguably Game 2 against the Ducks, when he stopped 60 shots in a triple-overtime thriller. Tampa’s Ben Bishop has had his ups and downs, too. He allowed the Rangers five goals in three separate games. On the flip side, he shut out the Rangers in Games 5 and 7 at Madison Square Garden, so he can buckle down when need be. EDGE: Even

[MORE HAWKS: Lightning ticket policy attempting to block Blackhawks fans out]

POWER PLAY

This one is closer than you think. Despite the Blackhawks’ power play struggling at times (please see one shot on five chances in Game 3 vs. Anaheim) and being the subject of Twitter punch lines (“Can’t we decline the penalty?”) it has come up big at necessary times. The Blackhawks, who are converting 19.6 of their postseason opportunities, got two power-play goals in Game 7, with Brent Seabrook’s score being the dagger. The Lightning has six more power-play goals than the Blackhawks this postseason (16 to 10) but they’ve also been on the job a lot more often (72 opportunities to 51). Close, for sure, but the Bolts may still have a more advantageous advantage. EDGE: Lightning

PENALTY KILL

Remember when the Blackhawks took this category running away? Their kill was terrible against Nashville, giving up six goals to the Predators. We’ll give them credit for how they did against Anaheim. They held the Ducks’ power play, which clobbered Calgary for six goals, to just three, and one was on a 6-on-4 advantage at the end of Game 7. Tampa Bay’s penalty kill was great during the first two rounds of the playoffs, allowing just six goals to Detroit and Montreal combined. Then they allowed seven power-play goals to the Rangers. So hit and miss for both. EDGE: Even

[NBC SPORTS SHOP: Get your Western Conference Champs gear here]

EXPERIENCE

We trot this category out a lot but there is plenty to be said for having it at this time of year. Both teams are coming off great conference series showings, both needing a Game 7 to advance. Some have compared the Lightning to the Blackhawks of a few years ago, and you can certainly see that. Tampa is rebuilding nicely, with young, strong players as part of their core. Perhaps they handle the growing spotlight with ease; they’ve done well thus far. But on this stage ... EDGE: Blackhawks 

Blackhawks honor Dave Bolland with “One More Shift” Friday

Blackhawks honor Dave Bolland with “One More Shift” Friday

Former Blackhawks forward Dave Bolland will be honored with “One More Shift” on the ice at United Center this Friday prior to Hawks matchup against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Bolland will stand with the team during the National Anthem and skate on ice in full gear. Along with time on ice, the United Center will also honor Bolland by showcasing his career highlights throughout the arena.

The Blackhawks will be celebrating the 10 year anniversary of their 2010 Stanley Cup win at five games this season, coinciding with “One More Shift” nights to honor individual players.  The United Center Atrium doors will open at 4pm, giving fans a chance to look at the interactive photo opportunities and historical items on display. Bolland will participate in a Q&A in the atrium at 6:30 p.m. before he hits the ice.

Dave Bolland was drafted by the Blackhawks in 2004 and spent ten seasons of his NHL career in Chicago. Bolland played with the team during two Stanley Cup championships, scoring the game-winning goal in the final minute of Game 6 of the 2013 Stanley Cup Finals against the Bruins. Bolland played in all 22 playoff games in 2010, garnering 16 points (eight goals, eight assists) which shared fifth among Blackhawks skaters in the postseason. Bolland recorded his best season of his career during the 2008-09 campaign with the Blackhawks, skating in a career-high 81 regular-season games and recording career highs in goals (19), assists (28) and points (47).

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Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Blackhawks show urgency vs. the undefeated

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USA Today

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Blackhawks show urgency vs. the undefeated

The Blackhawks finally got on the board for the season and did so in front of the 500th consecutive capacity crowd at the United Center.

Pat Boyle, Jamal Mayers and Charlie Roumeliotis break down the impressive performance by the Blackhawks against the undefeated Edmonton Oilers and discuss how Jeremy Colliton’s message got through to Alex Nylander and the rest of the team.

Plus, after an impressive performance in net, should Corey Crawford get the next game vs. the Blue Jackets? And what does the future have in store for Kirby Dach? Jamal makes a bold prediction.

0:54 – Blackhawks finally show urgency in 2nd period

2:47 – Penalty kill starting to show some life

5:00 – Thoughts on the Shaw/Strome/Kane line

6:43 – Blackhawks eliminating some defensive breakdowns

9:23 – Big rebound performance from Corey Crawford

11:36 – Colliton’s message to Alex Nylander got through

15:21 – Brandon Saad has been a pleasant surprise early on

17:15 – Dominik Kubalik’s impressive performance

18:31 – Will Kirby Dach be with the Blackhawks all season?

22:42 – Does Crawford or Lehner start vs. the Blue Jackets?

Listen to the entire episode here or in the embedded player below.

Blackhawks Talk Podcast

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