– The Hard Foul Sports Team
Chicago Blackhawks vs. Tampa Bay Lightning
This has the potential to steal the show of the two final series in the NHL and NBA. That’s right, the NHL actually may be able to steal the show. Now, granted there won’t be any dueling television nights, but the bottom line is this series will have sports fans buzzing. The Hawks have the star power. We all know what Toews and Kane brings on the front end and what Keith and Seabrook will provide the back end. Look for Patrick Sharp to try and continue to raise his trade stock (the Hawks are in serious cap trouble come this offseason) and Marian Hossa to show he still has gas left in the tank. Tampa is extremely skilled, but if Steven Stamkos doesn’t show up for a game or two, you are now relying on too much youth and inexperience to lead this team.
Who wins: Chicago in 6
The Chicago Blackhawks are the smallest team in the league, but they don’t play like it. Their two beast defensemen Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook have been excellent in their own end all playoffs. They’ll need to be, because the Lightning have what I think is the most dynamic offense in the league. For all intents and purposes, they have two #1 scoring lines, and while I expect Stamkos’ line to draw the bulk of the attention from Keith and Seabrook, the Lightning’s other top line of Kucherov, Palat and Johnson will need to take adavantage of the rest of the Chicago D-core. That being said, Chicago has an ace in the hole when it comes to this series. Actually, they have two. Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane are not only skilled and very tough, but they both have a knack to show up in the biggest moments. In a series that will be full of those moments, I think they do it again and win their 3rd title in 6 years.
Who wins: Blackhawks in 7
I’ve been a huge supporter of the Lightning throughout the playoffs, and so far, they haven’t let me down. I’ve predicted against the Blackhawks multiple times, and they’ve made me look pretty stupid. I am going to stick with my current trends and pick the Lightning to take this series. Stamkos is the best player in this series, in my opinion. I expect him to continue his scoring in the finals and step up his defense against Toews. The only doubt in my mind is in Ben Bishop. If he can play his usual game, the Tampa defense should be able to limit the scoring chances as they did in Game 7 against the Rangers.
Who wins: Tampa in 7
The experience that Chicago has in the Cup finals will be the difference this series. Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, and Duncan Keith will be too much for the Lightning to handle.
Who wins: Blackhawks in 6
Although I am also a casual hockey fan, I feel a bit more confident in picking this series. Tampa is a young team that was able to make their way out of the East, capping off their road to the finals with a game seven win against the Rangers. Honestly, I am personally surprised to see the Lightning in the Stanley Cup finals. I bet against them the whole way through, mostly because of the lack of consistency from Steven Stamkos. Talent usually prevails, and Stamkos found his way after a disappointing start to the playoffs. So, the Lightning are here playing for the Stanley cup, and I applaud them for that. With that being said, I don’t see any way that they beat Chicago. The Blackhawks have the talent, the depth, and of course, the experience. Buffalo boy Patrick Kane and company will help to cover up Corey Crawford’s inconsistent play, and I believe it will happen in seven games, mostly because there are few things better in sports than an NHL game seven.
Who wins: Blackhawks in 7
As much as I’d love to see an upset here, I have to go with the Blackhawks. While Tampa is a young, fast and exciting team to watch, they lack the experience of Chicago, who is competing for their third title in six years. Corey Crawford will need to come up big in crucial moments of this series, as the Lightning will, at times, be able to overpower Chicago’s defense.
Who wins: Blackhawks in 6
When it’s a possibility to have two superstars like Toews and Kane on the ice at the same time, you have a chance to score at any given moment. Add that with the play of all-star defenseman Duncan Keith, and you have yourself a 3 headed monster. Now, don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot of teams that have more than one playmaker on their roster, but Chicago is built to win thanks to the role players they have that fill out the rest of their lineup. Tampa Bay has definitely proven that they were the best team in the East, and they got to this point due to great play from players such as Ben Bishop, Steven Stamkos, and Tyler Johnson, but I feel like the Blackhawks won’t have some of the mental obstacles that the Lightning may have due to their recent and consistent success.
Who wins: Blackhawks in 6
If the Blackhawks win this series, that makes three Stanley Cups in the past six years. Corey Crawford has been in net the whole time. I don’t follow the NHL too closely, but I know that’s pretty good. However, I do play a decent amount of NHL (the video game), and I know you decide who gets home by randomly rolling for best goalie.
But Lightning cannot be killed. You cannot fight lightning. Blackhawks are mighty warriors, but they are few, and they lack the technology to combat an actual force of nature. If they had a ground-type Pokemon, things might play out differently, but the Blackhawks do not, so they are doomed.
Who wins: Lightning in 5
Golden State Warriors vs. Cleveland Cavaliers
The series everyone has waited for. The best player in the world LeBron James against the MVP Steph Curry in the NBA finals. The key matchup here is going to be how Draymond Green matches up defending LeBron James. Green is small but plays big, and his versatility is huge. Golden State is a matchup nightmare. They can sling the ball all over the court and have a backcourt with out-of-the-gym range. The Warriors’ roster, for the most part, has never been in the position, with the pressure of bringing a title back to Oakland. LeBron has been here for 5 straight years. Lebron can not do everything himself unfortunately, and if Kyrie Irving can’t shake the injury bug and Tristan Thompson has a game or two where he isn’t a beast on the glass, this will be a tough series for the Cavs.
Who wins: Cleveland hangs around, but Golden State in 7.
This series is a clash of styles: the free flowing, pass happy Golden State offense versus the isolation-heavy Cleveland Cavaliers. Having a free flowing offense that passes well is obviously the better style of play, but when you have LeBron James and Kyrie Irving, two of the best 1-on-1 offensive players in the league, having the ball in their hands the most is a pretty good idea. However, I think that only takes the Cavaliers so far. Golden State is very well balanced, going 10 deep in terms of players that get minutes for them and can make an impact. Cleveland is not nearly as deep, and I think that will wear on them as the series goes on. And of course, to go along with that balance is the MVP Steph Curry, a dynamic playmaker and a deadeye shooter that’s near impossible to stop. Golden State has had a magical season, and I think they get the fairytale ending they want.
Who wins: Warriors in 6
The matchup everyone that’s ever seen a game this season wanted is here. The best team vs. the best player. Golden State has endless firepower, and even Lebron himself said no can stop Steph Curry. The Cavs are a great defensive team, but I think Golden State will have too many weapons for them. It’s very difficult for me to pick against LeBron, my favorite player, but I just don’t think he will get the help he needs. LeBron has the best series here, but Curry will be close enough to help the Warriors prevail. Home court plays a factor here as well.
Who wins: Golden State in 7, and the world celebrates as LeBron falls to 2-4 in the finals.
This series could go either way, but since Golden State has home court advantage. They will win Game 7 at home. The matchup between Steph Curry and LeBron James will be awesome to watch all series. Tristan Thompson has become such a force rebounding for Cleveland, but Golden State will be able to slow him down because they have faced the likes of Anthony Davis, Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol, and Dwight Howard so far this postseason. Draymond Green and his versatility to guard multiple positions will be something to keep an eye on the entire series.
Who wins: Warriors in 7
As far as the NBA goes, I am an extremely casual fan. I follow the Nuggets, and maybe once a week sit down and enjoy a big time matchup. To make a long story short, I don’t have much personal knowledge to use as a basis for my pick. So rather than being logical and looking at the depleted Cavs roster compared to the Warriors solid depth, I’d rather just spitball some illogical narratives that I myself have concocted. After the Kennedy assassination, Vice President Lyndon Baines Johnson was sworn in to office. In many conspiracy theorist circles, it is thought that LBJ had something to do with the assassination, citing the facts that he had motivation and means to do so. LeBron James, a player on the Cavaliers, uses the same nickname that former President Johnson went by: LBJ. Coincidence? Absolutely. However, I feel like the names somehow indicate that LeBron may have more than just talent behind him in this series. The Warriors will mysteriously start to play like a weak East Coast team, rather than the best from the West. LeBron drags his depleted team all the way to the Promised Land, inching another step closer to Michael Jordan.
Who wins: Cavs in 6
Steph Curry is that dude.
Who wins: Golden State in 7
As a Chicago Bulls fan, I don’t think I could ever root for a division rival to win a championship. With that said, I personally understand that Cleveland has the best player in the world, in regards to LeBron James. The city of Cleveland hasn’t had a championship since 1964, but if they get one before Buffalo, I wouldn’t be too happy; misery loves company. I just feel like Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green are going to be too much for the Kevin Love-less Cavaliers to keep up with. The Warriors are battle tested after defeating the top teams in the dominate Western Conference.
Who wins: Warriors in 5
This year’s NBA Finals has no shortage of talent or storylines, and James vs. Curry is at the center of it all. James, a 4-time MVP, and Curry, this year’s MVP, are the odds-on favorites to win the Most Valuable Player award for the series, and although they probably won’t be covering each other, the more dominant one will likely be the one hoisting the trophy.
I know this little paragraph is lacking in analysis, but I wanted to keep things simple, and I intend on comprehensively breaking down the series in a couple days. The defensive dominance and depth of the Warriors should not be downplayed, and the health of Kyrie Irving and Klay Thomspon are major question marks, but when it’s all said and done, I truly believe Curry or James will be the ones who win it for their teams.
Per usual, LeBron will be at the center of everything the Cavs try to accomplish. His experience and durability will be big difference makers, but the biggest variable for James is the support from his teammates. If guys like J.R. Smith, Tristan Thompson, and Matthew Dellavedova can continue to relieve a bit of pressure from his shoulders, it will go a long way.
Steph Curry cannot be stopped, but he’s going to need some help as well. The Warriors are great in every aspect of the game, and his supporting cast is undeniably more impressive, so I think he’ll have a little less pressure on him to carry his team than James will.
Like I said, I will really delve into this series in its’ entirety soon, and hopefully I can provide some insightful analysis, but I stand by the (clichéd) opinion that James or Curry will be the hero here. I think Curry will probably get more help from his teammates, and he finishes his incredible MVP season with a historic Finals performance.
Who wins: Warriors in 7?