In part 1, we covered possession, offense, and defense. Let's jump right into the remaining categories.
This is one area where the two teams are quite evenly matched; neither boasts an all-world goaltender that's consistently difficult to beat from night to night. Both Corey Crawford and Ben Bishop are perfectly capable of playing outstanding and stealing games. Both guys have also shown off nights where the wheels come totally off and the team in front of them is forced into outscoring the opposition to bail the goalie out.
You don't get this far without quality play in net, but both goaltenders tend to play just well enough for the good team in front of them to win more than they lose.
Overall, the numbers look very similar; Corey Crawford's career save percentage sits at .917 on 7203 shots; Bishop's at .918 at 4602 shots. We've got a significant sample size for both goaltenders and that margin is razor-thin; it's close enough to reasonably say that these guys are about as close to evenly-matched in terms of "true talent" as two goaltenders can be.
Some breakdowns of the playoff numbers so far:
|Ben Bishop||Corey Crawford|
|Time on Ice||1173:16||866:48|
|5v5 Adjusted SV%||.9323||.9319|
Bishop has played considerably more than Crawford, due in part to never ceding the net for a start and the fact that the Lightning have needed 7, 6, and 7 games to close out their opponents in the first three rounds. Theoretically, there's more wear and tear on Bishop. Game 1 of the Final will be his 83rd appearance for 2014-15; it will be Crawford's 71st.
As for the numbers themselves, well, they really couldn't be much closer. Crawford has a tiny advantage if you split the sample to even strength shots; Bishop the same tiny advantage if you adjust the save percentage based on War on Ice's danger zones. They've stopped pucks at almost exactly the same rate; if that continues, shot differentials, puck possession, and special teams become more important since neither team has an appreciable advantage in net.
One element that could play a role -- Ben Bishop's puckhandling ability, which is significantly better than any of the goaltenders Chicago has previously played in their three series' wins. The Bolts also possess home ice advantage. Bishop's ability to accurately read the play and move pucks quickly out of the zone might help alleviate some pressure on his defense, and the friendly confines of Amalie Arena mean he will be confident with his reads on the puck and the boards.
First -- go read Jen LC's systems post on the special teams in this series. She does a terrific job of breaking down the X's and O's on the ice for what tactics and alignments both these teams will likely lean on in this series.
But let's look more generally at the trends and production in the playoffs so far:
|5v4 Corsi For/60||86.1||88.6|
|5v4 Shooting %||16.3%||19.6%|
|4v5 Corsi Against/60||98.8||89.7|
|4v5 Save %||.865||.866|
"Tampa Bay has better special teams" is a thing you'll probably hear a lot as this series gets underway. Whether or not that's true is another question. They've certainly heated up at the right time, and their overall PP conversion and PK success rates are good -- better than the Hawks, in both cases.
But the Hawks generate more shots and convert on a higher percentage of their looks on the power play and have done a much better job of preventing shots on the kill than the Lightning have. Barring some fantastic play in net from Ben Bishop, you'd have to give the edge here to Chicago.
Advantage: Chicago Blackhawks
Based on the check marks in the "advantage: Chicago Blackhawks" column, you'd be crazy not to pick them to win this series. They're deeper (especially up front), they have the top-end talent to match Tampa Bay's, are more experienced, have quality goaltending, and can be expected to match Tampa Bay's output on special teams.
Logically, there is no good reason to pick the Lightning in this series.
Find a way to win four games. Fuck logic.
Prediction: Lightning in 7