A Stanley Cup to Remember: What a Close Final

by Adam Gilfix

First and foremost, congratulations to the Chicago Blackhawks on winning their third Stanley Cup in 6 years, a dynasty indeed.  This Final was incredible to watch from a fan perspective and if you thought it was a close one…well, you’re right.  The defense was amazing and we shouldn’t forget the astounding feat the Hawks accomplished by only scoring 2 goals in each of the team’s wins in the Final.  I also shouldn’t forget to mention that through Game 5, the two teams were tied with 136 shots on goal apiece and Chicago had just 1 more goal (the Hawks of course won last night by 2 with 7 more shots than Tampa).  Keep in mind, however, that the Tampa Bay Lightning never led by more than 1 goal (oh and they never led in Games 4, 5, or 6) and that the Hawks had the only 2-goal lead in the series, covering the last 5 minutes 14 seconds of the final game of the Final.

There’s more where that came from.  But again, the Lightning did not have the lead once in the last 3 games.  Even so, they led the Hawks for a combined 92:20 in Games 1, 2, and 3; Chicago had the lead over Tampa for 90:33…in the entire series.  Wait, what?!  Yeah, that’s right, despite not once taking the lead in Chicago’s 3 straight victory’s en route to the Championship, the Lightning actually were winning for more time in the Stanley Cup Final than the Hawks.  But again, 177:39 of that 182:53 combined where either team was winning, the margin was just 1 measly goal.  How about this: the Final was tied for 177 minutes and 7 seconds in total, an eerily similar number.  So, the margin was ≤ 1 goal for 354:46 of the 360 minutes in this Final.  Here we see the amount of time that each tie and each team’s leads lasted:


Chicago’s 8 leads in the series lasted an average of 11:19.1, whereas Tampa Bay’s 6 leads (all in Games 1-3 and longer than the Hawks’ leads combined) endured for 15:23.3 on average.  The 14 instances where games were tied in this Final occurred for a mean time of 12:39.1.  Therefore, though Lightning leads were the least frequent event of the three, they lasted the longest, demonstrating Tampa’s ability to hold on to the lead (when they had it in the first half of the series, but where they also forfeited the longest lead – almost 49 minutes – of the Final in Game 1).  Now, here’s the amount of time in each period that the score was even or that either team held the lead:

NHL Finals

I would be remiss not to point out that of the 18 periods of incredible playoff hockey we all just witnessed in this series, all but 2 were tied at some point (only twice did one team hold the lead for a full-length period), speaking to the evenness of this Stanley Cup Final. Another observation: when weighing the time each team had the lead by the margin of that team’s lead (so weighing by 1 for all but that last lead – of 2 goals – for the Hawks), the overall differential in time with the lead in the Stanley Cup Final swings in Chicago’s favor by 3:27, with about half the Series being tied and the other split between 1-goal leads and that clinching 2-goal lead.  Spread that little time over 6 games, and the Hawks 4-2 victory in games is reduced to 34.5 seconds with the lead each game, which is equivalent to saying the series was tied the entire time except for 10.5 seconds of a Blackhawks’ 1-goal lead each period.

Thinking more about the Lightning’s dominance in the beginning of the series, I noticed that Chicago managed a minuscule 6 minutes and 19 seconds with the lead in the first half of this 6-game Final.  Another thing that stood out was the fact that Tampa had the lead for much of the 1st Period in each of these first 3 games, while holding the Hawks lead-less for those opening periods.  In fact, Chicago only had one 1st Period lead, which occurred in Game 5, a lead they held for quite a while before relinquishing and eventually winning the game early in the 3rd.  The Hawks also only had one and a half minutes in the lead in Period 2 in Games 1-3 combined (all in Game 2).  That leads me to this compressed chart from the one above:

NHL Finals 2

Here lies a manifestation of Chicago’s 3 straight victories: the much greater margin of victory with respect to ice-time with the lead in Period 3 (noting also the lack of time spent tied in this period for each game).  At the end of the day, Chicago played better and buckled down in crunch time, without much help from power plays, which were rather absent from the series, and did not factor much in the Hawks’ 3 consecutive cup-clinching wins.  In fact, Chicago was 2-16 on PP opportunities (with a goal each in Games 2 and 3), while Tampa went 1-13 (lone goal in Game 2 as well).

I think one would be hard-pressed to find another Stanley Cup Final as close as this one, and it certainly was a good one.  Thanks for the great hockey Chicago and Tampa!

UPDATE: Interestingly enough, the Blackhawks did not let their previous opponent – the Anaheim Ducks – lead in the last two games of that series.  Combined with Games 4-6 of the Final, that’s pretty impressive of Chicago to prevent their opponent from gaining a lead in 5 of their last 6 wins (within their last 8 games).  In fact, the Blackhawks held the lead over the Ducks in Games 6 and 7 of the Western Conference Final for a total of 89 minutes and 14 seconds, just 1:19 shy of the time they led the Lightning in the entire Stanley Cup Final.  What’s more, in the Conference Semis, the dynastic Chi-Town team swept the Minnesota Wild, not allowing them to hold a lead for a mere second of that whole series.

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