Stanley Cup Finals Preview: Blackhawks versus Bruins
The Boston Bruins and the Chicago Blackhawks are set to square off in the first Original Six finals match-up since 1979. The Blackhawks, who were heavily favorited to go all the way after starting the season with points in their first 24 straight games, had a difficult time in the semi-finals against the Red Wings but were able to recover and skate their way into the finals for the second time in four years and face a tough, streaking team in the Boston Bruins. Boston faced eminent elimination down three goals to the Toronto Maple Leafs in game seven of their first round match-up before coming back to win in overtime, then they went on and defeated the Rangers in 5 games before sweeping the heavily favorited Pittsburgh Penguins, to earn their second finals berth in 3 years. This sets up what can turn out to be one of the most exciting, hard fought Stanley Cup final in years. (Photo Credit: onesecondleft.com)
Keys to the Series:
The Blackhawks are one of the most entertaining and exciting NHL teams to watch play. They play a structured, organized defense and have a dynamic, explosive offense (ie. the Patrick Kane hat-trick in game 5 against the Kings) that can strike at any moment to give the Hawks the lead the push they need to win. This is a team with a core group of guys who have been together for a while and know each other well enough that they could probably play blindfolded and still make tape-to-tape passes. Add an incredible rookie, Brandon Saad, the defense of Duncan Keith and Johnny Oduya, and phenomenal goaltending from Corey Crawford and the Blackhawks appear to be fairly unbeatable. Their last series with the Los Angeles Kings was a relative walk in the park beating the defending champions in five games however the Bruins, although similar in style, are a far more difficult team to beat with THE hot goaltender.
In order for Chicago to win their second cup in four years they are going to have to play nearly perfect hockey. They must use their experience and comfort with each other to pick apart a stifling Boston defense. It is good for the Hawks that Kane has finally started to produce offensively (6G 8A 14P) but he is going to have to be the Patrick Kane of the regular season (23G 32A 55P). Chicago also needs their captain perennial superstar Jonathan Toews to step up his production. While he has not played poorly Toews has not been as dynamic as coach Quenneville would like him to be in this series with the Bruins. (Photo Credit: Keegan Rush)
#88 Patrick Kane - 6 G 8 A 14 P +4
#02 Duncan Keith - 2 G 9 A 11 P +6
#50 Corey Crawford - 12 W 4 L 1 OTL 1.74 GAA .935 SV% 1 SO
The Bruins are the best team in the Eastern Conference. Although they had a brief brush with elimination against Toronto they have looked absolutely dominant since. They went up 3 - 0 against a Rangers’ team that most people were predicting to be the team to beat in the offseason and ultimately finished them off 4 - 1. In the Conference Finals everyone expected it to be a hard fought battle between one of the best all-around hockey teams, the Boston Bruins, and the most offensively prolific team the league has seen in years, the Pittsburgh Penguins. Not only did Boston know exactly how to play against the Penguins to beat them but they absolutely shut down the toughest of all offenses to shut down, the Penguins had scored 47 goals in their first 11 playoff games this season, the Bruins held them to two goals en route to a four game sweep (Think Jerome Iginla feels stupid yet?). This should have, and did but the entire NHL on notice that the Boston Bruins are no joke and that when they come to play they do whatever it takes to win.
The Bruins are following the charge lead by their blue-collar grinders, David Krejci and Nathan Horton who have the backing of the hottest goalie in the league right now, Tuukka Rask. Boston is an in-your-face defensive team that eliminates the time and space necessary to make the perfect play required to beat a goalie like Rask. The stifling defense and physical, tough offense combined with the play of Rask may be just what is required for the Bruins to not just stay with the Blackhawks, but ultimately win their second Stanley Cup in three years. (Photo Credit: NHL Snipers)
#46 David Krecji - 9 G 12 A 21 P +14
#33 Zdeno Chara - 2 G 9 A 11 P +12
#40 Tuukka Rask - 12 W 3 L 1 OTL 1.75 GAA .943 SV% 2 SO
A hard fought, well played series that will go the distance, Bruins in 7.
(Photo Credit: WGNTV)