After winning their respective Conference Final Game 7s, the Tampa Bay Lightning and Chicago Blackhawks will play in the 2015 Stanley Cup Final.
The series will begin on Wednesday in Tampa Bay and can extend as late as June 17. Below is the complete schedule (all times are in ET):
Wednesday June 3 – Blackhawks at Lightning (Amalie Arena) – 8:00 p.m. on NBC
Saturday June 6 – Blackhawks at Lightning (Amalie Arena) – 7:15 p.m. on NBC
Monday June 8 – Lightning at Blackhawks (United Center) – 8:00 p.m. on NBCSN
Wednesday June 10 – Lightning at Blackhawks (United Center) – 8:00 p.m. on NBCSN
*Saturday June 13 – Blackhawks at Lightning (Amalie Arena) – 8:00 p.m. on NBC
*Monday June 15 – Lightning at Blackhawks (United Center) – 8:00 p.m. on NBC
*Wednesday June 17 – Blackhawks at Lightning (Amalie Arena) – 8:00 p.m. on NBC
* if necessary
This will be Tampa Bay’s first trip to the Stanley Cup Final since the Lightning won the championship in 2004. By contrast Chicago has made it this far three times in the last six years. This series also has the potential to produce some high scoring games as there’s no shortage as this series will feature Tyler Johnson, Nikita Kucherov, Alex Killorn, and Steven Stamkos on Tampa Bay’s side as well as Chicago’s Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa, and Patrick Sharp.
Chicago’s going to the Stanley Cup Final after earning a 5-3 victory over Anaheim tonight, but there were concerns that Marcus Kruger and Bryan Bickell might have been hurt in the process.
While injury information is scarce in the playoffs, Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville did say after the game that both of them “should be fine,” per CSN Chicago’s Tracey Myers.
Bickell logged 4:12 minutes in the first period, but was limited to just one 10 second shift in the second frame and didn’t play at all on the third. He remained on the bench though, leaving it up to debate as to whether or not he was hurt.
They might not be counted among the Blackhawks’ star players, but their depth in terms of forwards is part of what makes them effective. Their defense was tested in this series due to the loss of Michal Rozsival (ankle). We’ll see if that proves to be the extent of their serious injury issues going forward.
Who knows what the future will bring for the Chicago Blackhawks. They have some serious cap concerns going into the summer that will force them to make hard choices, albeit not for the first time in recent memory, and who knows how many more times 36-year-old Marian Hossa can rise to the occasion in the playoffs. Perhaps this will prove to be the final days of an era for Chicago, but thanks to their 5-3 victory tonight, it’s certainly not over yet.
WATCH: Full replay of Game 7
The story of the Blackhawks’ glory years is still being written and they’re making it hard to find ways to oversell them. At a time in the NHL where the salary cap has ended the likelihood of us ever seeing another dynasty in the traditional sense, Chicago will be playing in the Stanley Cup Final for the third time in six years.
It’s the usual suspects getting them there. Captain Jonathan Toews set the tone of this game with his two early goals. Patrick Kane registered three assists, giving him 111 points in 110 games. Kane is just one of 20 players to average at least a point-per-game in a minimum of 100 postseason contests, per Sportsnet.
Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford came up big as well. His shaky start to the playoffs now a distant memory, Crawford was arguably the difference in the second period as Anaheim launched 18 shots and Crawford turned aside all but one.
The winner though came from Hossa, which will likely be a sore point for Anaheim as the fact that the puck went off his skate made the marker controversial. Still, Anaheim didn’t lose by just one goal.
For the Ducks, this is the third year in a row that they’ve fallen in Game 7, but it was still a year of progress for them. They made it to the Western Conference Final after storming past Winnipeg and Calgary. They have the potential to come back next year and finally go the distance.
This year though belongs to the Blackhawks and Lightning. Both needed seven games to get past difficult opponents. Their battle will start on Wednesday.
The Anaheim Ducks did a far better job than Chicago when it came to getting the puck to the net in the second period of Game 7, but just one of those attempts beat netminder Corey Crawford. Ducks goaltender Frederik Andersen is not having nearly as good of a game.
With Anaheim already down 3-0 late in the second period, Marian Hossa got another one by him, but this time the marker was controversial because it clearly went off of the Blackhawks forward’s skate. The only question is if it was a distinct kicking motion and after a review, the NHL ruled that it wasn’t.
You can judge it for yourself below:
Of course, this call would attract far more debate if Chicago didn’t already have a sizable lead and if Anaheim stages a comeback that comes up just short, then that will amplify the spotlight on this goal. Nevertheless, it’s fair to say that very little has gone the Ducks’ way tonight and they are now in danger of seeing their tremendous effort in the Western Conference Final end with a whimper.
The last thing Anaheim wanted to do is draw comparisons to Game 7 against Los Angeles last year when the Ducks, in the words of coach Bruce Boudreau, were “nervous Nellies” and ultimately lost 6-2.
Nevertheless, Anaheim has found itself in a similar position in the deciding contest of the Western Conference Final, but this time it was largely due to the efforts of Jonathan Toews. After the Blackhawks captain got Chicago on the board early, he followed it up with a top-shelf, power-play marker midway through the frame:
As long as we’re talking about the Kings though, Chicago had a 2-0 lead against Los Angeles in Game 7 of the 2014 Western Conference Final and ultimately lost that game. Obviously Chicago has had a lot of key games go its way as well in recent years, but one thing remains true: Two goal leads aren’t safe.
Anaheim is down, but not out yet.