Heading into the 2015 Stanley Cup Final, the Blackhawks and Lightning have taken two different paths to the final round. But both teams have received strong play from their centers, leading to their places in the season’s ultimate series.
In these playoffs, the Blackhawks have faced three teams that bring a lot of size to the faceoff circle, certainly more than the Lightning will present in the upcoming series.
Here are the Blackhawks three previous playoff opponents’ centers listed with their heights and weights (listed in order of most faceoffs taken during the 2015 playoffs):
Paul Gaustad – 6-5, 223
Mike Ribeiro – 6-0, 177
Matt Cullen – 6-1, 200
Calle Jarnkrok – 5-11, 156
After sitting through the first two games, Antoine Vermette returned to the lineup and dominated, winning 58.2 percent of his faceoffs against a Nashville team that ranked 21st in the NHL during the regular season. Brad Richards was also very good, winning 53.7 percent of his faceoffs in the series. Jonathan Toews was held to only 47.6 percent in the opening round.
Mikko Koivu – 6-3, 215
Mikael Granlund – 5-10, 185
Kyle Brodziak – 6-2, 212
Charlie Coyle – 6-3, 221
The Wild finished the regular season ranked 15th in the NHL at the dot, but the Blackhawks completely dominated them in the series. Vermette again led the way, winning 71.4 percent of his faceoffs, but he wasn’t alone. Andrew Shaw won 66.7 percent of his limited faceoffs and Toews won 56.1 percent of his heavy workload. Marcus Kruger also came in above 51 percent for the series, with Richards (36.7 percent) being the lone center to struggle in the Hawks second round victory.
Ryan Kesler – 6-2, 208
Ryan Getzlaf – 6-4, 218
Nate Thompson – 6-0, 210
Rickard Rackell – 6-0, 201
There aren’t many teams that are bigger at the dot than the Ducks, and Anaheim was the better team when the puck was dropped in the last round; only Toews (58.5) was above 48 percent against the Ducks in seven games. Anaheim finished the regular season ranked ninth in the NHL and did a great job of winning faceoffs throughout the series, which was a key contributor to their success offensively.
As Chicago looks ahead to the Stanley Cup Final, Tampa Bay presents a different challenge. There isn’t as much size at the dot, but the Bolts have been successful in the playoffs.
Tampa comes in having faced stronger competition at the dot in the first two rounds, as the Detroit Red Wings finished the regular season ranked tenth in the league and the Montreal Canadiens ranked fourth overall at the dot. However, the New York Rangers were one of the worst in the league (28th overall in the regular season).
- Tyler Johnson (5-8, 183) – 50.3%
- Valtteri Filppula (6-0, 193) – 54.1%
- Brian Boyle (6-7, 244) – 50.7%
- Steven Stamkos (6-1, 194) – 53.6%
Both teams have been offensively led by their centers as well. Johnson leads all postseason skaters with 12 goals and 21 points, and Stamkos has added 17 points in 20 games. Toews has, predictably, been Chicago’s biggest weapon at center; he has nine goals and 19 points in 17 games.
The team that wins at the dot will likely win the Stanley Cup. And, after their path through Nashville, Minnesota and Anaheim, the Hawks will have a distinct advantage heading into the coming series.