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article imageOp-Ed: Blackhawks vs Lightning: Who'll hoist Lord Stanley's grand prize?

By David Goehst     Jun 1, 2015 in Sports
Tampa - It's Toews versus Stamkos, Quenneville versus Cooper and fate versus perseverance as two elite NHL franchises in Chicago and Tampa Bay collide when the Stanley Cup final begins Wednesday night.
The Blackhawks have brought home two Stanley Cups in the last five seasons, thanks in part to an active front office and the skillful coaching of Joel Quenneville. Tampa Bay, just 23 years old and once featuring female netminder Manon Rheaume, hoisted their first and only Stanley Cup in 2004.
Both teams feature skilled goalies in Ben Bishop and Corey Crawford, yet Chicago's depth at goalie may trump the sloppy play of Tampa's reserves. Bishop managed to hold Rick Nash and his Rangers scoreless on the road to win Game 7, but shutting out a Toews-Kane line may prove impossible. Crawford, with only one Stanley Cup championship under his belt and the ability to show up big when needed, is playing for elite status. Goalie advantage: Blackhawks.
Chicago has put together 69 playoff victories since 2009, whereas Tampa Bay's dynamic team has Stamkos and Tyler Johnson to lead an inexperienced squad into action. Blackhawks have better shifts, kill penalties at an 83.4 percent clip and boast the NHL's second-best GAA at 2.3 per game. Although Tampa Bay has a slightly better penalty kill percentage at 83.7 percent and led the NHL in goals per game at 3.2, the upstart Rangers exposed just enough weakness in Tampa's goal protection when they pummeled Tampa 7-3 in Game 6. Defensive advantage: Chicago.
Tampa Bay was, by and large, a well-oiled scoring machine all season long, led by Steve Stamkos' 77 points. Chicago's 17th ranked scoring offense features Toews' 28 goals and Hossa's 39 assists, although a significant stretch was played without Patrick Kane's services. Young and hungry, Tampa Bay will probably avoid another shutout, but will have to skate by a revived Blackhawks defense to raise their second Stanley Cup. Offensive advantage: Tampa Bay.
Joel "Coach Q" Quenneville has an overall coaching record of 754-438-77, decades of playoff experience and has mastered the art of shifting. Jon Cooper has an overall record of 101-59 and has never made it this far at the professional level, having just one AHL Cup victory under his tutelage while with the Norfolk Admirals. An experienced coach coaching experienced winners, however, may prove more difficult than Cooper's inexperience since there's less for Quenneville to gain and more for Cooper to prove during this season's Cup finale. Coaching advantage: Even.
This year, two marquee programs will put their power plays, goal protection and defensive acuity to the test, but only one team will play to Stanley Cup standards. I like the experience and greater scoring variety offered by Chicago, and feel Quenneville's guidance will be too much for an inexperienced playoff coach in Jon Cooper. Stamkos is as tenacious as they get offensively, but throwing Kane, Hossa, Toews and the surging Saad at any team this late in postseason contention is simply one hot mess that Tampa won't handle properly.
Your 2015 Stanley Cup champ is the Chicago Blackhawks in six games.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
More about Stanley cup, Chicago blackhawks, Tampa bay lightning, steven stamkos, Jonathan toews
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