Led by captain Steven Stamkos’ 4th goal in as many games, the Tampa Bay Lightning defeated the defending Eastern Conference Champion New York Rangers 2-0 in Game 5 on Madison Square Garden ice on Sunday night to take a 3-2 series lead. The upstart Lightning pulled within one game of the franchise’s 2nd trip to the Stanley Cup Final (2004).
The night before, the Chicago Blackhawks took their game with the Anaheim Ducks to at least double overtime for the 2nd time in the Western Conference Final– the Blackhawks defeated the Ducks 3-2 in Game 2 in three overtimes, the longest game in the history of the Blackhawks franchise — and with an Antoine Vermette goal, defeated the Ducks 5-4 to nod their series up at two games apiece. That’s not even mentioning a crazy third period that saw six total goals and three by the Ducks in a span of 37 seconds.
All of that begs one question: when does the Stanley Cup Final start?
As of this moment, the Stanley Cup Final is tentatively scheduled to begin on Wednesday, June 3rd.
Home ice in the Stanley Cup Final is awarded to the team that finished with more points during the regular season. Here would be the location of Games 1 and 2 of the Stanley Cup Final for each potential match-up:
Anaheim (109 points) vs. New York (113 points) — Games 1 and 2 would be held at Madison Square Garden
Chicago (102 points) vs. New York (113 points) — Games 1 and 2 would be held at Madison Square Garden
Anaheim (109 points) vs. Tampa Bay (108 points) — Games 1 and 2 would be held at the Honda Center
Chicago (102 points) vs. Tampa Bay (108 points) — Games 1 and 2 would be held at Amalie Arena
Like last year, the National Hockey League is looking to schedule Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final on a Wednesday night that way the NHL and NBC can come back with Game 2 of the Stanley Cup on Saturday night in prime time immediately following the Belmont Stakes. Coincidentally, last year California Chrome had the opportunity to win the Triple Crown and this year American Pharoah does.
Due to contractual obligations, two games of the Stanley Cup Final will be broadcast on the NBC Sports Network while the remaining games (including Games 5-7, if necessary) will be broadcast on NBC.