Stanley will either get a tan or return to some very familiar hands in the next couple of weeks.
The Tampa Bay Lightning are in the Stanley Cup final for the first time since 2004, while the Chicago Blackhawks are back for the third time in the past six seasons. Chicago won it in 2010 and 2013.
This time the Blackhawks could easily be considered the underdogs, and the more experienced playoff team won’t have the home-ice advantage.
That belongs to the Lightning, who will host Game 1 at Amalie Arena on Wednesday night. Game 2 is Saturday night before the series goes to United Center in Chicago for Game 3 on Monday, June 8 and Game 4 on Wednesday, June 10.
For the first time since 2000, each conference finals series went to a seventh game. Fifteen years ago the New Jersey Devils came back from that to beat the Dallas Stars in six.
If this Cup final goes seven, the Lightning can feel good about having Ben Bishop based on his two shutouts in his first two such situations. The Blackhawks can feel good about how they dispatched the Anaheim Ducks on Saturday night to move on.
HOW THEY GOT HERE
Lightning: After falling behind three times in the first round against the Detroit Red Wings, the Lightning won Game 6 at Joe Louis Arena and then Game 7 back on home ice. They took a three games to none lead on the Montreal Canadiens, lost twice and then wrapped up the second-round series. In the conference final, Tampa Bay went eye-to-eye with the defending Eastern Conference-champion New York Rangers and handed them their first Game 7 loss at Madison Square Garden in franchise history.
Blackhawks: Corey Crawford’s struggles led coach Joel Quenneville to turn to backup goaltender Scott Darling and then back to his starter to beat the Nashville Predators in six. The Blackhawks swept the Minnesota Wild in the second round to reach the West final. They came back from three series deficits to beat the Ducks in seven, led by captain Jonathan Toews.
WHO GOT THEM HERE
Lightning: Tyler Johnson, centre of the super-productive “Triplets” line, leads all scorers with 12 goals and 21 points. Ben Bishop has a 2.15 goals-against average and .920 save percentage and more importantly, shutouts in Game 7 in the first and third rounds. Defenceman Victor Hedman has been a rock, skating over 24 minutes a game with 10 points to show for it.
Blackhawks: Patrick Kane, who won the Conn Smythe Trophy in 2013, has 10 goals and 10 assists. Jonathan Toews has nine goals — including two in Game 7 against Anaheim — and nine assists. Defenceman Duncan Keith, though, has been Chicago’s MVP playing over 30 minutes a night, well ahead of every other player in the playoffs.
Nov. 11 at Chicago: Blackhawks 3, Lightning 2 (OT)
Feb. 27 at Tampa Bay: Lightning 4, Blackhawks 0
Game 1: Wednesday, Amalie Arena, Tampa, Fla., 8 p.m.
Game 2: Saturday, Amalie Arena, Tampa, Fla., 8 p.m.
Game 3: Monday June 8, United Center, Chicago, 8 p.m.
Game 4: Wednesday June 10, United Center, Chicago, 8 p.m.
Game 5: Saturday June 13, Amalie Arena, Tampa, Fla., 8 p.m.*
Game 6: Monday June 15, United Center, Chicago, 8 p.m.*
Game 7: Wednesday June 17, Amalie Arena, Tampa, Fla., 8 p.m.*
Stephen Whyno, The Canadian Press