NHL Stanley Cup Final Betting Preview: Chicago Blackhawks vs Tampa Bay Lightning

2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs
Stanley Cup Final
#3 Chicago Blackhawks vs #2 Tampa Bay Lightning
Best of Seven Series Format: 2-2-1-1-1
Series Price: Blackhawks -133 / Lightning +113
Odds Courtesy of 5Dimes Sportsboook

Game #1 – Wednesday, June 3, 2015, 8:05 pm Eastern, TV: NBC
Amalie Arena – Tampa Bay, Florida
Opening Line: Tampa Bay -120 / Chicago +100
Current Line: Tampa Bay -125 / Chicago +105
Opening Total: over 5 -110 / under 5 -110
Current Total: over 5 -140 / under 5 +120

The Lightning are a slight favorite against the Blackhawks in game one of the Stanley cup Final Wednesday night.
The Lightning are a slight favorite against the Blackhawks in game one of the Stanley Cup Final Wednesday night.

Both the Chicago Blackhawks and Tampa Bay Lightning won game sevens on the road in the conference Finals to advance to the Stanley Cup Final. Tampa Bay won game seven in the Eastern Conference at the New York Rangers 2-0 last Friday night. Chicago won the Western Conference with a 5-3 win over the Anaheim Ducks Saturday night. Chicago trailed 3-2 against the Ducks before winning the last two games.

Chicago, coached by Joel Quenneville, finished third in the Central Division with a 48-28-6 record and 102 points. The Blackhawks beat the Nashville Predators in six games in the first round, and swept the Minnesota Wild in four games in the conference semifinals. Chicago is looking for the sixth Stanley Cup in franchise history, and their third since 2010.

Tampa Bay, coached by Jon Cooper, finished second in the Atlantic Division with a 50-24-8 record and 108 points, two points behind the Montreal Canadiens. The Lightning beat the #3 seed Detroit Red Wings in seven games in the first round, despite trailing 3-2 in the series. Tampa Bay took a 3-0 series lead against the Canadiens in the second round, but ended up winning the series in six games. Tampa Bay  returns to the Stanley Cup Final for only the second time in franchise history after winning the Cup in 2004.

Chicago and Tampa Bay split the season series this year. The Blackhawks won 3-2 in a shootout at home November 11, while the Lightning won 4-0 at home February 27.

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Chicago is outscoring teams 3.29-2.94. The Blackhawks are #3 in scoring in the playoffs but #12 in goals allowed. Chicago is 10/51 (19.6%) on the power play and 37/49 (75.5%) on the penalty kill. Chicago has 3 short handed goals and hasn’t allowed any. The Blackhawks average 32.6 shots per game and opponents average 36.9 per game.

Chicago has used 2 goalies in the playoffs. Corey Crawford struggled against Nashville in the first round and was benched in favor of Scott Darling for four games in that series. Darling struggled too, and Crawford has started every game since. Crawford is 9-4 in the playoffs with 2.56 GAA. He has a save percentage of .919 with one shutout. Darling is 3-1 with a 2.22 GAA. He has a save percentage of .936.

Patrick Kane has 10 goals and 10 assists. Jonathan Toews has 9 goals and 9 assists. Duncan Keith has 2 goals and 16 assists. Marian Hossa has 4 goals and 9 assists. Patrick Sharp has 4 goals and 8 assists.  Brad Richards has 2 goals and 9 assists. Brent Seabrook has 6 goals and 4 assists.  Andrew Shaw and Brandon Saad have at least 8 points in the playoffs. Defenseman Michal Rozival is out for the season with an ankle injury. Chicago relied on only four defensemen in the series against Anaheim, and will likely do the same against Tampa Bay.

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Tampa Bay is outscoring teams 2.75-2.45 in the playoffs this season. The Lightning are 16/72 (22.2%) on the power play in the playoffs and 56/69 (81.2%) on the penalty kill. Tampa Bay has been on special teams far more than any team in the playoffs, both on the power play and penalty kill. The Lightning have 3 short handed goals and have allowed 2. Tampa Bay averages 28.5 shots per game and opponents average 28.

Goalie Ben Bishop is 12-8 in the playoffs with a 2.15 goals against average. He has a save percentage of .920 with three shutouts. Bishop has been benched twice in the playoffs in favor of Andrei Vasilevskiy. Against New York, Bishop struggled badly at home giving up 15 goals in three games, but was dominant on the road allowing just four goals in four games with two shutouts in the last two games at MSG.

Center Tyler Johnson has 12 goals and 9 assists. Nikita Kucherov has 9 goals and 10 assists. Steven Stamkos has 7 goals and 10 assists. Alex Killorn has 7 goals and 9 assists. Ondrej Palat has 7 goals and 8 assists. Victor Hedman has a goal and 9 assists in the playoffs. Valtteri Filppula has 3 goals and 8 assists. The line of Johnson, Kucherov and Palat is nicknamed the Triplets, and has accounted for most of the scoring in the playoffs, even though they are the second line.

Chicago is 4-1 on three or more days rest, and after scoring 5 goals or more, 9-3 against teams with winning records, and overall, 6-2 in Stanley Cup Final games, 12-5 against Atlantic tams, and 33-16 in Wednesday games. The over is 4-1 in this series recently in Tampa Bay.

Tampa Bay is 10-1 in Wednesday games, 8-3 on 3 or more days rest, and after scoring 2 goals or less, 37-14 at home, 7-3 after allowing 2 goals or less, 13-6 against teams with winning road records, 2-5 against Central teams, and 1-4 after a win. The home team has won 4 of the last 5 games in this series. The Lightning are 5-1 against the Blackhawks recently and have won the last 4 in Tampa against Chicago.

These two teams are among the fastest in hockey and this should be an entertaining series. Both goalies have been inconsistent in the playoffs. One night they look unbeatable, but then give up a ton of goals the next night. Chicago has much more balanced scoring between all four lines. Tampa’s top six forwards have scored 45 of their 55 playoff goals. Chicago has more depth except on defense. I think this series will go the full seven, with the Blackhawks winning. However, I think the Lightning win game one tonight.

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