Stanley Cup final preview – Chicago Blackhawks v Boston Bruins

Stanley Cup finals are a pretty special sporting event on their own. Add two ‘Original Six’ teams who’ve both won the Stanley Cup in the last three years. Mix in the fact that they’ve not met in the playoffs since 1979 and you know this series is going to be bigger than Brad Marchand’s nose.

Get excited.

How they measure up……

The Chicago Blackhawks are the President’s Cup winners for being the best team in the NHL and the number 1 seeded team in the Western Conference. The Boston Bruins come in as the number 4 seeded team in the East.

The Blackhawks beat out the Philadelphia Flyers to win the Lord Stanley’s Cup in 2010, with the Bruins taking the title off their hands against the Vancouver Canucks the following year, in 2011.

The Bruins, fresh off a clean sweep of the number 1 seed in the East, the Pittsburgh Penguins will face off against the Blackhawks still reeling in the momentum of their double overtime series win over defending Stanley Cup Champions, the Los Angeles Kings.

Both the Blackhawks and the Bruins have played one seven game series in these playoffs. Chicago against Detroit in the second round, and Boston against Toronto in the first. Both teams were dominant in their other series.

The teams did not play each other during the 2012 – 2013 truncated season due to the lockout.

Forwards

Bryan Bickell has been the wildcard player the Blackhawks needed in their post season. Not simply for the fact that the guy can find the back of the net, but also due to his physicality. Being a big lad, he is able to get up close to the net, and hold his position.

Patrick Kane found form at the right time, scoring a game and series winning hat trick in Game 5 against the LA Kings, becoming the first player to reach that level of awesomeness since Wayne Gretzky in 1993. With his speed and puck handling ability, if his hot streak continues he will be a danger to Boston this series.

Marian Hossa has been consistently outstanding along with Blackhawks top goal scorer Patrick Sharp whilst Michael Frolik and Marcus Kruger have been fantastic fucking amazing on the penalty kill. Brandon Bollig has been added for Game 1 and will bring the brute to the fourth line.

The Bruins have two of the league’s top scorers in linemates, David Krejci and Nathan Horton with 21 points and 17 points respectively.

Patrice Bergaron is the epitome of a clutch player, and one of the best defensive forwards getting around. Not to mention his linemate Brad Marchand, the little guy who quite literally packs a big punch. Marchand frustrated the hell out of Sidney Crosby in the previous series, making him ineffective. Look for Johnny Toews to have his back checked more times this series than Amanda Bynes has been checked for STDs in the last month.

D-Men

Both Chicago and Boston have strong defence, and both have defenders that contribute offensively as well.

For Chicago, Duncan Keith has been invaluable, especially since being reunited with his bash brother Brent Seabrook in Game 5 of the Detroit series. Both are in great form these playoffs, and neither mind scoring goals.

Niklas Hjarlmasson in my opinion is totally underrated. He was fantastic last series, and isn’t afraid to put his body on the line to defend the net. Line mate Johnny Oduya is great in defence and great at getting up close to the net setting up scoring opportunities. These two legends have been killing penalties like bosses.

For Boston, Zdeno Chara was brilliant against Pittsburgh, and is arguably one of the best D-Men in the NHL. He was instrumental in the shut down of Evgeni Malkin in the Eastern Conference Final where the Penguins were held to just 2 goals.

For me though, he is the only stand out. His line mate Dennis Seidenberg is consistently good along with other defencemen Johnny Boychuck and Adam McQuaid.

Goaltenders

Corey Crawford for the Blackhawks has been wonderful for the Blackhawks. Crawford hasn’t won any games for the Hawks, but he hasn’t really been tested either. The Crow has a save percentage these playoffs of .935%.

Tukka Rask for the Bruins was phenomenal in their series against Pittsburgh, where the Pens were shut out in 2 of the 4 games. Rask stopped 134 of 136 shots on goal in the series and has a save percentage these playoffs of .934%.

Rask has faced 53 more shots these playoffs than Crawford.

So who ya got?

Due to the lockout, there were no crossover games for these teams at all, which of course means there is no basis for comparing these teams outside of statistics. In fact, the last time these teams met was in 2011. On paper, they appear to be fairly evenly matched, although Chicago have a slight defensive edge.

The Boston Bruins are a far more physical team than the Chicago Blackhawks and will use their size and strength in an attempt to neutralize the Hawks. I see them going WWE on Toews and Kane much the same way as the Detroit Redwings did in the second round. The Blackhawks figured out how to handle the Redwings then, and I’m confident they will do the same with Boston.

For the Blackhawks, the fact Patrick Kane seems to have found playoff form and is dangerous almost every time he has the puck in the offensive zone coupled with the fact that they have the home ice advantage and are virtually unbeatable in the Madhouse make them my favourite to win the Cup.

If Toews can keep his cool this finals series, and their defence holds, Blackhawks will win it in 6.

Game 1 is Wednesday at the United Center in Chicago 8pm ET (Thursday 10am AEST)

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