The Chicago Blackhawks faceoff against the Tampa Bay Lightning in the 2014-2015 Stanley Cup Championship in the NHL. A total of seven NAHL alumni will be involved in the series.
The Tampa Bay Lightning have four members that were involved in the NAHL: Goaltender Ben Bishop (Texas Tornado, 2004-05, NAHL All-Rookie Team), Head Coach Jon Cooper (Texarkana/St. Louis Bandits, 2003-08, Two-time NAHL Coach of the Year), defenseman Andrej Sustr (Kenai River Brown Bears, 2008-09) and defenseman Matt Carle (USNDTP, 2000-02).
Meanwhile, the Chicago Blackhawks have three players that played in the NAHL including, forward Brandon Saad (Mahoning Valley Phantims, 2008-09, NAHL Rookie of the Year), forward Patrick Kane (USNTDP, 2004-06) and goaltender Scott Darling (North Iowa Outlaws, 2005-07).
As for Cooper, a former two-time NAHL Coach of the Year, he is trying to continue a unique trend in his coaching career this postseason. In almost every one of his stops along his way to the NHL, Cooper has won a championship in his second full season in the city. This is his second full season with the Lightning; he was hired on March 25, 2013.
Most recently, Cooper won the Calder Cup in his second season coaching in the American Hockey League. Playing for him on the Norfolk Admirals in 2011-12 were Johnson, Palat and Killorn.
Cooper also won Championships in the NAHL (twice with the St. Louis Bandits in 2007 and 2008) and also won an NA3HL Championship with the Metro Jets in 2002. He also won a USHL Championship with Green Bay following his five-year stint in the NAHL.
He has pushed all the right buttons since being hired by the Lightning. He has also gained enough experience through this playoff run to feel as though he can match his coaching wits and IQ against anyone.
For the Blackhawks, NAHL alumni Brandon Saad and Patrick Kane have been two of the three players on Chicago’s main line that have played in a big role in getting the team to this point.
Kane was expected to miss up to 12 weeks with a fractured clavicle he sustained in late February. He actually missed seven and was ready for Game 1 of the Western Conference First Round against the Nashville Predators. Kane has 10 goals and 20 points in 17 games, showing no ill effects from the injury.
Kane moved to the top line for the final two games of the Western Conference Final, joining captain Jonathan Toews and emerging star Saad to form a trio that devastated the Anaheim Ducks.
Saad been a mainstay on the Hawks’ top line all season long, skating with Toews and Marian Hossa and coming into his own as one of the best young two way forwards in the game. He had a career year stats-wise, scoring 23 goals and dishing out 29 assists for the Blackhawks. He has six goals and eight points in the playoffs to date.
The Blackhawks went to backup Scott Darling during the Nashville series. Darling won Game 1 in relief and started Games 3 through 6 before Crawford won in relief of him to close out the series. Darling had strong numbers as the backup this season.
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