No one was surprised about the Ducks, Blackhawks, Rangers and Lightning making it to the final four, and that was a good thing for the NHL.
A high level of entertainment is present in both series right now and all four teams have a legitimate shot at winning it all. The Rangers were the favourite to win the Cup at the beginning of the playoffs, but the Blackhawks became the odds on favourite during round two.
The bar is now set high for the Stanley Cup Final to deliver the most entertaining series of the playoffs. If that is going to happen, then fans should be rooting for a Lightning vs. Blackhawks final.
Lightning in a Bottle
When at their best, the Lightning play an up-tempo puck possession game where they can create offence from pretty much anywhere in the offensive zone. During games two and three, they were picking apart the Rangers usually astute defence, and lit up Lundqvist for an unusual 12 goals in 2 games.
Even during game four they created an endless amount of chances, but Lundqvist was clearly the better goalie on that night which saw the Rangers tie up the series. On most nights, Tampa Bay would win the game in which they put forward that kind of effort.
Imagine what the Lightning would do to a much less aggressive Blackhawks defence, which is already up against the wall in their series versus the Ducks. Chicago has given up an average of three goals per game during these playoffs, which is third worst of the 16 teams who qualified.
Superstar matchups will be in focus no matter who ends of in the finals, but how about Stamkos vs. Toews, two of the best centres that Canada has to offer? Both players are similar in stature and easier to compare than say, Getzlaf and Stamkos. How about Tyler Johnson vs. Patrick Kane? Two undersized American players who can dazzle with their offensive talent and bring people out of their seats. The offensive talent might not be on display as much if someone such as Ryan Kesler or Derek Stepan is around to shut down the other teams offensive stars.
Heavy Ducks vs. Soaring Hawks
The Ducks and Blackhawks are a little closer in style of play compared to the Lightning and the Rangers. Both teams arguably have more scoring depth than their Eastern Conference counterparts, and both teams also like to shoot the puck a ton.
Their scoring chances usually come in different ways. The Ducks are a big, heavy team, so they tend to dump and chase a little bit more than the Blackhawks. Then they use their size on the boards to create turnovers, and get chances by crashing the net.
They did this when they scored the go-ahead goal versus the Blackhawks in game four.
Goals will come in a variety of different ways when you score as much as the Ducks do, but they use their size to create chances more than the Blackhawks, who tend to cycle the puck more.
On Toews first of two goals in game five, Chicago created a turnover with their sticks instead of their size. After the turnover, they kept control of the puck until Hossa was able to set up Toews at the top of the circle for a one-timer.
At the end of the day, the Hawks play more of a similar style compared to the Lightning. Both teams have smaller, skilled offensive-minded players who would put on a clinic if they went head to head.
Any series with the Rangers wouldn’t be as exciting because of their defence-first mentality. They are built from the net out, whereas Tampa Bay and Chicago are built around their offensive stars. As for a Ducks vs. Rangers series, well that would be all too similar to the Kings vs. Rangers series from last season’s final. For the sake of not repeating history, fans deserve to see something a little bit different.
You can’t go wrong with any possible matchup in the Stanley Cup Final this season, but in terms of entertainment value, the Blackhawks and the Lightning would definitely live up to the hype.