If you’re still not familiar with The Coin thing — a 1972 Eisenhower Dollar that we used in the opening three rounds — click here to get up to speed (and bask in all its coinly glow.)
The Coin continued its dominance in the conference finals, accurately predicting that the Bolts and ‘Hawks would advance to the Stanley Cup Final. The Coin improved to 10-4 overall this postseason. Other staff members (of the animate variety) to pick Tampa Bay-Chicago were Brough, Dadoun, Tucker and O’Brien. That leaves our records at:
Jason Brough: 9-5
Mike Halford: 8-6
Ryan Dadoun: 10-4
James O’Brien: 10-4
Cam Tucker: 11-3
Dhiren Mahiban: 9-5
Onto the Final…
Brough: Bolts in 7 (Preseason pick: Tampa Bay)
Easy pick for me. I chose the Lightning in October, and I don’t see any reason to abandon them now. Okay, maybe I see one reason: the Blackhawks. That’s a pretty good team they’ve got in Chicago. And I guess I haven’t been entirely impressed with the Lightning, who’ve been blown out four times at home in these playoffs and were, frankly, lucky to escape the first round. So that’s two reasons. But I’m a stubborn man and I truly do believe the Lightning have all the necessary pieces to upset the favored ‘Hawks.
Halford: Bolts in 7 (Preseason pick: Pittsburgh)
While I love a good narrative, I’m not fully buying into the “inexperienced Bolts will eventually succumb to the veteran Blackhawks” thing. Why? Well, a big part of the reason Tampa Bay’s here is because its young guys have defied expectations, and achieved success quicker than expected — including the coach (five years ago, Jon Cooper was in the USHL finals.) Tampa’s passed every test this postseason, including a historic win at MSG in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final. The Bolt are skilled, they’re fast, they’re deep and, as the first three rounds have shown, they’re ready.
O’Brien: ‘Hawks in 6 (Preseason pick: Chicago)
Remember when the Islanders beat the Gretzky Oilers back in the 80’s, and “The Great One” remarked about the beat-up dynasty members icing themselves in the locker room rather than spraying each other with champagne after besting them for the Cup? This will be a modern version of that series: the Blackhawks will teach the Lightning how to win. Also: when in doubt, choose the West over the East.
Dadoun: ‘Hawks in 7 (Preseason pick: St. Louis)
Chicago doesn’t have the best goaltender in the NHL, but neither does Tampa Bay and at least Corey Crawford is more thoroughly battle tested. The Blackhawks’ bottom-two defensemen are questionable, but with Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook leading the charge, they don’t necessary need to be deep to outplay the Lightning. Tampa Bay has plenty of offensive weapons, but Chicago has more proven big-game forwards.
Tucker: ‘Hawks in 6 (Preseason pick: Chicago)
The Tampa Bay Lightning have proven to be an exciting group with a promising future. But they’re facing a Blackhawks team that’s loaded with Stanley Cup champions, led by Jonathan Toews, who had his best moments in these playoffs when it mattered most in the Western Conference Final. Both Ben Bishop and Corey Crawford have gone through ups and downs in these playoffs, but Crawford has settled into a groove after the opening round, while Bishop’s struggles are more recent, and against a goal-strapped New York team. And the Blackhawks have a decidedly more dangerous lineup than the one Bishop faced against the Rangers.
Mahiban: ‘Hawks in 7 (Preseason pick: Chicago)
Chicago’s experience will prevail over the youth and inexperience of Tampa. The Blackhawks’ core pieces know what it takes to win at this time of year. The Bolts, meanwhile, are reminiscent of the 2008 Penguins when a young Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang led Pittsburgh to the Stanley Cup final only to lose to Detroit. The experience served the Pens’ young core well as they made it back to the big dance a year later, topping the Wings.