For the first time since 1979, two Original Six teams will face each other in the historic Stanley Cup finals. The Boston Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks aren’t rivals and don’t have much of a playoff history, but both are playing their best hockey since the beginning of the postseason, offering a chance for a memorable Stanley Cup final.
It’s no surprise the two teams with the NHL’s best defenses and goaltending have earned their way to the Finals, but only one will leave the series with the Cup. Here’s MSF’s Stanley Cup finals preview.
The Boston Bruins are a defense-first team, but they have managed to score the most goals so far in the playoffs. Boston isn’t as star-studded as the Blackhawks are on offense, but Boston’s top forwards are producing consistently and that’s why they have been so productive in the postseason. The Bruins will need that to continue.
Mike Krejci has been a consistent top forward for the Bruins. He leads the league in postseason points with 21, and has scored several clutch goals. Forward Nathan Horton, has also been great for the Bruins. He has seven goals, and an impressive plus/minus of 21.
Boston is desperately going to need those two guys to step up and find ways to score against the Chicago’s stingy defense. It’s hard to lose when your best players are playing well.
On paper, you won’t find an offense with more firepower than the Blackhawks. Patrick Sharp, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa and Jonathan Toews are all outstanding hockey players. Chicago scored the most goals in the NHL during the regular season, but production by Toews and Kane has dropped significantly since the playoffs started.
But the ‘Hawks have stayed alive because of their depth. Bryan Bickell has been an absolute monster on the ice, scoring eight goals so far and creating a scoring chance almost every time he’s on the ice. Even Andrew Shaw has contributed offensively when he’s not committing stupid penalties.
Offensive production has not been a problem for the ‘Hawks, but they’re going to need more consistency from Kane and Toews to capture the cup this year.
Boston and Chicago have the two best defenses in the league. It’s hard to find any serious flaws that will seriously hurt either team other than unpredictable in-game mistakes. Both teams are stacked with top defenseman, but the Bruins have had the luxury of more consistent scoring from their back six.
Niklas Hjalmarsson and Johhny Oduya haven’t been given enough credit for how well they have played as the second defensive pairing for the ‘Hawks.
There’s nothing bad to say these two teams’ defenses. They’re as good as you can realistically have, and it will be a lot of fun to watch them go at each other.
Again, Boston and Chicago have the two best goaltenders in the playoffs, proving, once again, that you need solid defense and goaltending to win a Stanley Cup.
Both goaltenders’ stats are almost identical.
Corey Crawford is 12-5-1 and has a 1.74 goals against average and a .935 save percentage, while Tuukka Rask is 12-4-2 with a 1.75 GAA and a .943 save percentage. Neither are flashy goaltenders and haven’t faced that many shots, but their skill lies in making big saves at crucial times.
This series is ultimately going to come down to goaltending. Giving up two goals in a game will most likely be enough for a loss. Crawford needs to limit the amount of rebounds he gives up, and Rask needs to play like he did against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
I doubted the Blackhawks against the Los Angeles Kings and Jonathan Quick, but I am not going to do that again. It’s not going to be an easy Stanley Cup win, but the Blackhawks are the best team in the league, and they’ll prove that against the Bruins.
Blackhawks win in seven