Stanley Cup Finals Gambling?
With the much-anticipated Stanley Cup Final upon us, it’s time to speculate on what we should expect on the professional ice rinks over the next couple of weeks.
NHL STANLEY CUP SERIES PRICES
Chicago Blackhawks (Series Prices) -145
Tampa Bay Lightning (Series Prices) +125
Here are five reasons why the Chicago Blackhawks – darn well nearing a dynasty in this decade – will bring home the hardware.
1. Captain Serious
Center Jonathan Toews is not just a clutch player, he might be the clutch player of our generation. He is drawing comparisons to legendary Detroit captain Steve Yzerman, and they’re not unwarranted.
Ironically, Stevie Y is now in charge of the hockey moves for Chicago’s Final opponent, the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Toews is always a very strong player, but he elevates his game to another level when all the chips are down. Whether it was his dominance in the World Junior Championships last decade or his repeated playoff heroics (almost too many to count) he is a beast in game-clinching and series-deciding moments.
Most recently, Chicago’s captain put the team on his back in Game 7 of the Western Conference finals against the Anaheim Ducks, a 5-3 Chicago victory. Don’t be at all surprised if he does it again soon versus the Bolts.
2. Unsung Grinders
Perhaps the veiled MVP of Game 7 that few were talking about was Andrew Shaw. The 23-year old center from Belleville, Ontario doesn’t have size (only 5″10, 180 lbs), but will still muck in the corners, go to the tricky areas of the ice and play with a ton of energy.
Shaw didn’t register any points in the deciding game of the Anaheim series, but he was the best player not on the scoresheet. He joins Brandon Saad and Teuvo Teravainen to form a trio of great young players that – if the Hawks can tap-dance their precarious salary cap situation – Chicago can build around for the future.
3. A Sneaky-Good Blueline, Even After Duncan Keith
Anyone who follows NHL hockey understands what a great player defenseman Duncan Keith is. He’s been central to Chicago’s two earlier Cups and he needs no introduction.
Yet, the Blackhawks have other blueliners that can carry the mail.
Niklas Hjalmarsson has been almost as steady a rock as Keith through the Cup seasons. Johnny Oduya can log heavy minutes and brings great skating to the table. Brent Seabrook is a fantastic D-man and has been a capable running mate to Keith through Chicago’s developing dynasty.
Veterans like Michal Rozsival and Kimmo Timonen have a role to play. It’s clear that it’s not just Keith, but Chicago’s depth on the blueline that makes them such a tough out in the postseason.
4. The Pride of Buffalo, NY
Maybe Patrick Kane is just a Phil Kessel minus the spare tire and with better teammates around him… but that’s enough.
Both players are elite goal scorers with burst, sick hands and unfathomable wrist shots. Kane needs to prove to no one that he is among the most offensively gifted hockey players in the world.
You give him an inch, and he’ll tickle the twine and roast your Stanley Cup ambitions. His 10 goals and 20 points lead the team in the playoffs. Be on notice, Tampa.
5. “The Mad House on Madison”
When a team gets home-ice advantage, it means something different in New Jersey or Florida than it does in Montreal. However, since the team’s renaissance about six years ago, Chicago’s fans have been fantastic.
Whether it’s Vince Vaughn looking cool wearing hockey’s best logo on his chest or a throng of deafening Illinoisans stoned on Miller Lite and decked out in red, black and white, the Blackhawks have unquestionable presence when they are on home ice.
Not to mention: the Fratelli’s goal celebration song, “Chelsea Dagger” – Chicago made that cool! Now you hear it in major junior rinks everywhere.
The pipe organ is pretty cool, too.
You ask me? Look out, Tampa Bay!