Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - Though the Chicago Blackhawks and Tampa Bay Lightning participate in separate conferences and have never previously met in the postseason before tomorrow night's Stanley Cup Finals commence, it doesn't mean the two franchises haven't had meaningful interactions in the past.
In fact, these clubs met in the first-ever game in Lightning history, on Oct. 7, 1992 at Expo Hall.
Journeyman forward Chris Kontos registered the first hat trick in team annals thanks to a four-goal effort which fueled a 7-3 victory. Tampa lit up future Hall-of-Famer Ed Belfour for five goals in the first period alone, which included a score from current Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin.
Chicago and Tampa Bay played five more times that season, because the league actually placed the Bolts in the Norris Division, albeit just for the 1992-93 season, along with other midwestern franchises.
In addition, these clubs feature a 11 combined players who competed at American Division-I universities:
Tampa Bay: Ben Bishop (Maine), Brian Boyle (Boston College), Matt Carle (Denver), Jason Garrison (Minnesota-Duluth), Alex Killorn (Harvard) and Andrej Sustr (Nebraska-Omaha).
Chicago: Scott Darling (Maine); Duncan Keith (Michigan State); Patrick Sharp (Vermont), Jonathan Toews (North Dakota) and Trevor van Riemsdyk (New Hampshire).
Darling actually succeeded Bishop in the Black Bears' crease, and these Finals mark the first time in NHL history that two goaltenders from the same program play for opposing squads.
There's been some wheeling and dealing as well, under the cloak of swapping players between divisions and conferences so they don't come back to haunt their former teams.
The initial trade between the clubs was consummated Feb. 22, 1995: Tampa Bay acquired Paul Ysebaert and Rich Sutter from Chicago in exchange for Jim Cummins, Jeff Buchanan and Tom Tilley. The last deal was of equal fanfare, occurring on April 2, 2013 when the Blackhawks acquired Philippe Paradis from the Bolts for Kirill Gotovets.
Player movement between the cities separated by roughly 1,200 miles wasn't all a matter of moving spare parts.
In fact, the most famous Blackhawks alum who eventually suited up for the Lightning was none other than dynamic Denis Savard (1993-95, 63 pts. in 105 games), while the most famous ex-Lightning skater who played for the Blackhawks will be on the ice for the duration -- Brad Richards -- who put up 37 pts. in 76 regular-season games and nine points over 16 playoff appearances thus far.
As far as offense and defense are concerned, the Blackhawks and Lightning act as studies in contrast: Tampa Bay led the league with 262 goals, while Chicago tied with Montreal for the Jennings Trophy by yielding 189 scores.
In that spirit, let's examine both the highest-scoring and lowest-scoring games between the pair.
Dec. 6, 1998: Chicago 7, Tampa Bay 5 at United Center. Current NBC analyst Ed Olczyk produced the go-ahead goal with 55 seconds to play. He and Tony Amonte (2G, 1A) both released a game-high five shots on goal, while Alexei Zhamnov tallied four points for the victorious hosts (2G, 2A).
Mikael Renberg unleashed a team-high four SOG and also scored for the Bolts. There were seven goals scored in the third period alone, which Tampa Bay entered leading by a 3-2 count. Five of those red lights occurred in the game's final 4:03.
March 14, 1998: Tampa Bay 1, Chicago 0 at the Ice Palace. Alexander Selivanov picked up the lone goal at 5:03 of the second period. Mark Fitzpatrick got the nod in net and turned aside 37 pucks to gain his fourth and final NHL shutout. In victory, the Lightning were held to a single shot during the third period.
Switching back to raw stats, it's incredible that neither participating club (Chicago, 31.1 percent and Tampa, 29.8 percent) has enjoyed a lead for a significant time frame across their respective postseason journeys. And yet, their playoff OT records have been stellar. The Blackhawks have gone 4-1 while the Lightning stand 3-0.
While none of the above can serve as anything close to predictors of present success, fans are better off knowing these random facts than they are in the revelation of the perfunctory bet between Chicago and Tampa's mayors.
For the record, Cuban sandwiches and cheesecake are involved.