There is no doubt that this year's playoffs have been a weird one. Eastern Conference favorites were bounced in consecutive rounds by a surprising Tampa Bay Lightning team. The Washington Capitals finally seemed like they were going to make it out of the second round again, only to lose three straight to the Rangers. Stanley Cup Champion goaltender Corey Crawford was chased out of the goal by the Nashville Predators and temporarily lost his job to Scott Darling.
Now some things have righted themselves as the Blackhawks are on the brink of another Stanley Cup, this time on home ice. Standing in their way is a resilient and motivated Lightning team. Game 6 is sure to be a doozy.
The Hawks escaped Amalie Arena with a victory in Game 4 on the back of Corey Crawford. They won their second straight game 2-1 and were gifted one of their goals as Ben Bishop and Viktor Hedman wiped each other out, allowing Patrik Sharp to find twine in the first. However, the difference between games 4 and 5 is that in Game 5, the Hawks were the better team.
All reason suggests that the Hawks will close the series out on Monday night. They have won the last two games, they are on home ice, and they are the more experienced team (not to mention my pre-Finals prediction was Hawks in 6). rnrnHowever, the Bolts have surprised us all before. They went into Madison Square Garden and did what had never been done before, beat Henrik Lundqvist in a Game 7.
This team has been the underdog in almost all of their series except maybe the first round against Detroit. They cannot be counted out. Despite all the criticism, and injuries, Ben Bishop has stood tall in the Finals - no pun intended - and he has been one of his team's best players, maybe only trailing Viktor Hedman who has proven himself as one of the NHL's best blueliners.
The Bolts have managed to be in the series without any production from their captain Steven Stamkos who has one point (An assist in Game 2) in the series. rnrnrnrnI expect this to change tonight. Tonight's game just feels like it could be the one that is more like how I expected this series to be; wide open with goals galore.
Despite everything telling me that the Hawks will close out the NHL season tonight, i predict Stamkos scores late to extend the series.
Lighting 4 Hawks 3.