When it comes to the 2015 Stanley Cup Finals, odds makers believe defense will triumph over offense. The Chicago Blackhawks, who owned the No. 2 ranked defense in the NHL during the regular season and have stunted better than 75 percent of opponents power plays, are 20/29 favorites to claim this year’s Cup over the Tampa Bay Lightning, according to Sportsbook.ag.
The Lightning will host the Blackhawks in Wednesday night’s Game 1 at Amalie Arena, but they are a 1.5-goal underdog on home ice.
Both sides are only days removed from exciting and draining Game 7 victories in their respective conference finals, but the Blackhawks may have the edge with their recent success this deep into the postseason.
The Blackhawks, led by the talented core of forwards Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, and Patrick Sharp, as well as defenseman Duncan Keith and goalie Corey Crawford, seeks their third Cup in the last five years. Chicago last hoisted the NHL’s ultimate prize in 2013 after climbing out of a 2-1 series hole to defeat the Boston Bruins in six games.
Led by its own talented batch of forwards in Tyler Johnson, Nikita Kucherov, and Steven Stamkos, the Lightning scorched all comers with the NHL’s highest scoring attack this season, averaging 3.2 goals per game. Yet with goals more difficult to come by they’ve revamped their strategy to reach the Cup Finals for the first time since 2004.
Tampa Bay’s slipped to 2.75 goals per contest this postseason, and has uncharacteristically relied on its defense, allowing only 13 goals on 69 opponent power plays and goalie Ben Bishop notching a .920 save percentage and three shutouts. Two of Bishop’s shutouts came against the President’s Trophy-winning New York Rangers in the Eastern conference finals, with the 28-year-old picking up 22 saves in the Game 7-clincher last week.
With their goalie in the zone and the benefit of home ice throughout the series, normally a red flag would be raised for the Lightning’s underdog status. However, Tampa Bay’s gone 5-6 at home during the postseason compared to Chicago’s 7-1 mark.
However, neither team is expected to complete a now rare feat in the finals. The chances of a Tampa Bay sweep and victory are at 15/1, and Chicago’s are slightly better at 10/1.
Instead, the Blackhawks are projected to win the Cup in six games at 3/1 odds, or in five games at 4/1. Tampa Bay’s chances improve if the series goes long, with a victory in six games at 5/1. But currently each team is listed at 9/2 if they Game 7.
The Conn Smythe Trophy, the Cup MVP award, is also heavily in Chicago’s favor with six of the 10 players listed donning red and black. Toews is favored at 13/4, followed by Keith at 7/2. The Lightning’s best shot at the Conn Smythe lies in Johnson at 4/1, which certainly has something to do with his 21 points and 12 goals tops among all players during the playoffs.
The two sides split their regular season series 1-1, with Chicago taking the first 3-2 in shootout and Tampa Bay winning the last matchup with a 4-0 shutout.
Stanley Cup Odds
Blackhawks 20/29 favorites, and Lightning 5/4
Number of Games
Blackhawks in 6, 3/1
Blackhawks in 5, 4/1
Blackhawks in 7, 9/2
Lightning in 7, 9/2
Lightning in 6, 5/1
Lightning in 5, 6/1
Blackhawks in 4, 10/1
Lightning in 4, 15/1