Well, we’re here, tonight is the first game in a series that’s for all the marbles. Here’s everyone on the staff’s predictions and X-factors for the Stanley Cup Final.
Sean Fitzgerald: Blackhawks in 6
The Blackhawks have been to the top of the mountain before. The core has done this twice with different pieces. The difference will be the secondary scoring. The Blackhawks don’t just get scoring from Kane and Toews.
X-Factor Brandon Saad. Saad’s speed and goal scoring will give the Lightning defensive pairings fits.
Colin Likas: ’Hawks in 6
This should be a fast-paced and thrilling Stanley Cup Finals series, but
previous Cup Finals experience and edges on defense and in net will give
Chicago its third Cup in six seasons. There are plenty of players who will
need to turn in great performances for the ’Hawks to take home the
chalice, but Saad seems poised to break out. He appeared to really start
feeling it at the end of the Western Conference finals, playing alongside
Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. Even if he’s back with Toews and Marian
Hossa in this series, Saad’s speed, vision and quick hands can put a
serious dent in Tampa’s championship chances. The Bolts know who they’re
looking to stop most on Chicago’s offense, and they may end up getting
burned by Saad.
X factor: Brandon Saad
Gail Kauchak: Hawks in 6
It has been argued by many that the Western Conference is stronger than the Eastern Conference. For the most part, I would agree. But this Tampa Bay Lightning team scares me. They have speed; they have youth; they have numerous scoring threats, and they have passion.
But wait, this Chicago Blackhawks team is no slouch either. They might not have so much youth anymore. But like Tampa Bay, they also have speed, and great scoring depth, and let’s not even get started on passion. They make up for youth with their experience, and with their ability to finish. Let’s face it; that goes a long, long way in the Stanley Cup Final.
X-factor. Kane and Toews. These two might not be put together right away. But when the going gets tough (and it will), Coach Q will send out the nuclear option. The Captain will set the stage, and Kaner will light the lamp. Let’s get this party started!
Skylar Peters: ‘Hawks in 6.
In a year where many have doubted the Blackhawks, they have continued to deliver humble pie to all, through the regular season and playoffs.
This time, it’s a little different. This one is in Chicago’s favour. And though some things will be different about this Finals series compared to the past: home Ice advantage belongs to their opponent, for example, the ‘Hawks will continue to lean on their championship experience, and bring home the Cup for the third time in 5 years.
Instead of a Game Six victory on the road, like they did in Philly and Boston, the Blackhawks will deliver a Stanley Cup – clinching win in front of the League’s best fans, at the United Center.
X-Factor: Corey Crawford.
Corey Crawford will face his stiffest test yet, going against the NHL’s #1 offense. Though he isn’t the ‘Hawks Conn Smythe favourite, a brilliant performance in the Final could change that. He will have to out-duel Ben Bishop, who also has had a shaky playoff run, despite his team’s success.
As it always does in the Final, the goaltenders will play a big part. Though the story so far is all about the players in front of them, Crawford and Bishop will be the X-factor in determining the 2015 Stanley Cup Champion.
Tim Lively: Blackhawks in 5
The Tampa Bay Lighting remind me a lot of the 2008-2009 Chicago Blackhawks: they’re on the verge of being truly great, but they’re not quite there yet. The Lightning haven’t exactly been able to put opponents away either this post season, and there have been plenty of times where Ben Bishop has either been lights out or lit up. Corey Crawford had his initial struggles, but he’s gotten right back to his top form.
X-Factor –Discipline: The Lightning are just one year away from being swept by the Montreal Canadiens when they had home ice advantage. Couple this with Bishop’s inconsistencies and a ravenous Blackhawks fanbase that travels very well, and you have a Tampa team that’s not going to be able to crawl out of a 2-0 deficit if it comes to that. Bottom line, the Lightning’s game just isn’t disciplined enough yet for them to overcome a team like the Hawks four times.
Matt Barbato: Blackhawks in 6
X-Factor: Corey Crawford
Josh Brink: The Chicago Blackhawks will win their 3rd Stanley Cup in 6 years in a total of 6 games.
X-Factor: Duncan “the freak” Keith: He continues to rack up the points and time on ice. As a result of his efforts, he will be rewarded with the Conn Smythe for first time in his career to add to his hardware collection.
Keith Schultz: Hawks in 6The Blackhawks steal one of the first two games and hold serve at home.X-Factor- Teuvo Teravainen.
Zach: Blackhawks in 6
So I went a bit crazy picking 4 against the Ducks, but it’s nothing that was overtly crazy. Here’s the thing… Inexperience vs experience. Dynasty vs young and dumb… Both these clubs have had a wonderful road to this final. Both proved and proved yet again, they’re capable. However, as the Hawks have taken a game on the road in their last 16 post season series, I expect the series to go back to Tampa 3-1. When that happens, well… Never mind. I expect the Lightning to take game 5 and subsequently When the Hawks solidify their “gold” standard in the NHL it will be in front of the best fan base in hockey – and it will be in hawkeytown usa.Oh and then there’s that whole, “you can’t wear blackhawks gear in certain sections of Amelie” well didn’t Yzerman learn from the Blues, from the Preds and the Ducks!?! Speaking highly of Toews won’t pull at the heart strings of the hockey gods, it only makes this city and club laugh at you. Because of this I almost took 4 again… But… I truly believe we go 6 here… I said it once I’ll say it a thousand times… Book Grant Park Mr. McDonough, the mayor is awaiting your call, the Hawks have a reservation for at least 2 million the week of the 15th. I’ll be there. Will you? 4 is the number and dynasty title is on the line.
Brian Kasnicka: Hawks in six.
Tampa is an excellent young team with a bright future ahead of them, but they lack the experience of a Stanley cup final. Experience isn’t everything, but when push comes to shove being there before is quite advantageous for the Hawks.
X-Factor: Brad Richards. He returns to his original stomping grounds tonight and will need to continue putting up some timely points if the Hawks want to have another parade.
Nick Rogers: Hawks in 7.
This series is truly one that could go either way, with the way the Lightning offense an score I expect a ton of high-scoring games. While the Lightning are on the cusp, I feel that they aren’t quite there yet. However, that isn’t saying that the Lightning are going to be steamrolled by the juggernaut of the 2010’s, the Chicago Blackhawks, because they won’t. This series out of the past two Finals the Hawks have been in scares me the most, just because of the Lightning, in my eyes, are a carbon copy of the Blackhawks. The key here is getting the Lightning to lose their composure, once you get a team to lose its composure (just look where that got the Anaheim Ducks), you have them on the ropes. But, losing poise only comes late in a series. Look for this to go 7 games.
X-Factor: The Defense. It’s no secret the Top 4 have been sent back out in a “Herbies”-style fashion, again and again and again. The Lightning aren’t going to exploit this with hits as the Ducks did. They aren’t physical enough or big enough, the second they want to get physical is when Mr. Bryan Bickell sends pads to the ice. The Lightning will attack the bottom pair with their biggest weapon, speed and precision If the minuscule minutes that Cumiskey and Rundblad log are spent on their heels, it won’t end well. But on the other side, if they do decent, the Hawks will have found a temporary 3rd defensive pairing that just might help them hoist Lord Stanley’s Cup.
Game 1 begins tonight at 8 PM Eastern/7 PM Central.