By Ian S Palmer

Stanley Cup Finals Betting Preview – Chicago Blackhawks vs Tampa Bay Lightning: bet365 lists Chicago as the favorites to win the Stanley Cup Final series at 20/29 with Tampa the 5/4

The first time the Chicago Blackhawks and the Tampa Bay Lightning will ever meet in the NHL postseason will be for all the marbles as the two teams face off in the best-of-seven Stanley Cup Finals beginning Wednesday, June 3 in Tampa. The Hawks reached the final after taking out the Anaheim Ducks n seven games in the Western Conference final while the Lightning also had to go seven in the Eastern Conference to defeat the New York Rangers. Both teams won their conference-deciding contests on the road.

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This showdown will feature the experience of the Blackhawks against the youthful energy of the Lightning. Chicago will be led by the likes of Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa and Patrick Kane up front with Duncan Keith as the team’s top defenseman and Corey Crawford in net. Tampa Bay will reply with Steven Stamkos, Tyler Johnson, Nikita Kucherov and Ondrej Palat up front with Viktor Hedman on the blue line and Ben Bishop in goal.

Chicago has gone 32-0 so far in the 2014/15 campaign when leading after the second period and Tampa is 9-0 in the playoffs when they score first. The Hawks have the edge in experience since the club won the Stanley Cup in 2009/10 and again in 2012/13. The Lightning’s last appearance in a cup final came in 2003/04 when the franchise won it’s one and only championship. Tampa had the edge in the season series against Chicago this year by going 1-0-1. Each team will be relying on their speed, skill, goaltending and special teams to hoist the trophy in the next two weeks.

Tampa has scored 55 goals during the current postseason with their top two lines accounting for 45 of them. If the Hawks can shut these players down the Lightning will be in trouble since their other eight forwards have combined for a grand total of four goals. Johnson leads Tampa in playoff scoring with 12 goals and nine assists while Kucherov has nine goals and 10 assists. Their line mate Palat has chipped in with seven goals and eight assists while team captain Stamkos has seven goals and seven assists and Alex Killorn has seven goals and nine helpers.

Kane leads Chicago in scoring with 10 goals and 10 assists while Toews is next at nine goals and nine assists. Marian Hossa has also started t pick up points after a slow start and Sharp and Brandon Saad can also put the puck in the net on a consistent basis. Chicago lost defenseman Michal Rozsival for the season when he broke his ankle against the Minnesota Wild in the second round and will be relying on Keith to keep up his fine play as the defenseman has 18 playoff points this year. Hedman leads Tampa in scoring from the blue line with 11 points.

As for the goaltending, Bishop leads the playoffs in shutouts with three and has gone 12-8 with a goals-against average of 2.15 and a save percentage of 92.0. Two of his shutout came in game seven wins over Detroit and the Rangers. Corey Crawford of the Blackhawks has gone 9-5 in the postseason with a 91.9 save percentage along with a GAA of 2.56. Tampa’s power play is running at 22 per cent in the playoffs while the Hawks are operating 19.6 per cent. Both Tampa and Chicago have chipped in with three shorthanded goals in the postseason.