After a brief hiatus in the NHL, the Stanley Cup Finals begin tonight, as the Chicago Blackhawks and Tampa Bay Lightning meet for the first time in game 1. The resilient Blackhawks have been here before in the finals ending in great results for them, hoisting the Stanley Cup in 2013. Two years later the Hawks are back in it, with a lot of their core from that championship winning team still in tact. Despite being without home ice advantage, the Blackhawks enter the Stanley Cup Finals as the favorites to win the Cup. Money is pouring in on the Hawks to win this series, and what they are seeing is the experience of the Blackhawks over the inexperience of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Also, beating the Anaheim Ducks, who looked like they were going to cruise into the finals a few games ago, doesn’t hurt either. The Lightning have been here before, but it was just over ten years ago that they won it in 2004. That was their first and only Stanley Cup appearance and they made the best of it. Can they go 2-0? They’ll get their chance against the Blackhawks.
This was a much needed rest for the Blackhawks. They had a tough, physical, and long series against the Ducks in the last round to claim the Western Conference. It was marked by long overtimes, a close series, and physicality with the big Ducks. The Blackhawks rose up and were able to knock the Ducks off in game 7 on the road in Anaheim. A lot of people picked the Blackhawks in that game figuring they are the more experienced team who will find a way to pull it out. The Blackhawks did just that and a lot of people are picking them in the finals for that same reason as well. I provide my pick for game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals below.
Chicago Blackhawks @ Tampa Bay Lightning
As expected, bettors are jumping on the Blackhawks in game 1 from what I see. Same reasoning as I noted above. And I agree, the time off should benefit them with what has become a banged up defensive unit for the Blackhawks. On offense the Blackhawks were without Patrick Kane since February, before he returned for the beginning of the playoffs. Kane impressively hasn’t missed a beat and has been an integral part of the Blackhawks run to another Stanley Cup.
This is going to be a fun series to watch from a fans perspective. There is going to be a of talent out there on the ice. In this Stanley Cup Final I think you can make an argument that either team will be hoisting the Cup. A stronger argument could be made for the Blackhawks considering their history in recent years. However, the Lightning are in the finals for a reason. There is plenty of talent on this team that can take them very far. Additionally, you have the best home team in the NHL with home ice advantage in this series. Home teams have won 72% of the first games in the Stanley Cup Finals. The world is jumping on the Blackhawks as underdogs in this game, but I think the Lightning get the party started with a win in game 1.
PICK: LIGHTNING TO WIN -129 5DIMES – BEST ODDS