After two tepid conference finals we now have an Original Six Stanley Cup Finals matchup featuring the two previous Stanley Cup winners before the Los Angeles Kings won it all last season. For some reason Conference Finals usually end quickly. You would think as each round progresses it would get tighter but that’s apparently not the case. This is the latest start to the Stanley Cup Finals ever. All of the recent Finals (last 10 years) were over with by the time this one will start on June 12th except two. In 2011 the Boston Bruins vs Vancouver Canucks had Game 6 and Game 7 after June 12th. In 2006 the Edmonton Oilers vs Caroline Hurricanes had Game 4 on June 12th and ended on June 19th. The Penguins won the Stanley Cup in 2009 on June 12th.
1 Chicago Blackhawks vs. 4 Boston Bruins
Season Series: None, thanks to the strike. Thanks NHL 😉
Playoff Series History: 5-1 Bruins
Stanley Cup Finals Record: 6-12 Bruins, 4-7 Blackhawks
What We Learned: Both were considered down and out and rose back for that magical moment in a Stanley Cup season. The Boston Bruins were down 4-1 in Game 7 against the Maple Leafs, the Chicago Blackhawks were down 3 games to 1 against the Red Wings.
Stars to Watch: Both of these teams have great defenses with four lines that can score. Boston has 6 players in the Top 21 in scoring this postseason the Blackhawks have 4. Those numbers are always a little skewed as the teams that lasted longer obviously played more games. For the Blackhawks after a slow start Patrick Kane has been getting back to form. His hat trick in the series clincher was a key reason they were able to close out the Kings. I’m still not sold that he is back to being their number 1 scoring threat again and the Bruins are good at shutting down your top threats. How he ends up performing will determine the Blackhawks chances of winning. Marian Hossa is the key to this series. He didn’t register a point in any of the Blackhawks losses and registered at least one point in all of their wins except for two. Jonathan Toews has been mostly non-existent throughout much of this postseason. Now facing a lot of Patrice Bergeron, I doubt that is likely to change. For the Bruins David Krejci, Nathan Horton, Brad Marchand make them go. They’ve been pretty consistent and they should continue to produce. Tyler Seguin was tied for 3rd in scoring in the regular season but his ice time has been reduced and he produced no points against the Penguins. This could be because when he was rookie his ice time was jerked around too. Perhaps his never been able to get into a playoff groove because of it. It’ll be interesting to see what he can provide.
X-Factor: Jaromir Jagr is like Marian Hossa a few years ago. Just latching on to anybody he think might win the Stanley Cup. The only difference is Jagr has already won it before. He’s playing the Mark Recchi role this year, the old voice of reason. This might be his final hurrah. While I don’t think he played well in the first few rounds he came on against the Penguins, probably because it was his old team so he had something to prove. He has something to prove now as he goes for, likely, his final Stanley Cup. Bryan Bickell has been a welcomed playoff hero for the Blackhawks and he will need to continue to play at a high level and produce like he has been. Defensively both teams have great defensive pairs with guys that can throw their weight around and block shots. In both cases the Bruins have a slight edge. Never underestimate the importance of faceoffs in a series, the Bruins have the advantage as they have been the top faceoff team in the playoffs and the Blackhawks are 3rd worst by percentage of all 16 teams. Only Toews has been a top performer for the Blackhawks and even then Bergeron and Chris Kelly have been better.
Goalie Problem: Tuukka Rask vs Corey Crawford, it should be a great one. I think Crawford is the better goalie, slightly. However, what Rask did against the Penguins can not be slighted. Neither team really has the edge, unless Rask gets hurt, as I expect both goalies to continue to play well. Crawford has no Stanley Cup experience, Rask has some from a bench vantage point during their Stanley Cup run two years ago.
Fun Fact: This is the first Original Six Stanley Cup matchup since 1979 (Montreal Canadiens vs. New York Rangers) and was the last of three in a row.
Prediction: While I’m sure the Blackhawks are the favorites I’m not buying it. The Bruins seem like a team of destiny after coming back to beat the Maple Leafs. They have also never been behind in any of the series. I feel the Bruins are the best team in the East, I don’t feel the Blackhawks are the best team in the West. I think the Ducks were, as evident by the fact that they were the only team to sweep the Blackhawks this season. The Ducks just can’t beat the Red Wings otherwise they would be in the finals right now. Having said that I think it comes down to a few things. The Bruins have the more consistent scoring while the Blackhawks main guys have been streaky at best. While both teams have good defenses I have more confidence in the Bruins defensive pairings being able to shut someone down. It would be a nice comeback for the city of Boston to win only a couple months after the Boston Marathon bombings. Bruins in 6.