A matchup of two of the last three Stanley Cup Champions isn’t likely to disappoint any hockey fans. Particularly a matchup pairing two teams that were as dominant as Chicago and Boston proved to be this postseason.
Both enter the Finals after quickly dispatching their Conference Final opponents in a much quicker fashion than anyone imagined. The pair of short series should serve both teams well entering the Final as there was less time for a grueling, physical series to drain one or the other.
At this point, both teams have endured their own battles to reach this point. Both were staring at overtime in game seven before squeezing past in getting in place to play for the Cup.
Boston’s run has been particularly effective as they’ve gotten very consistent scoring from each of their lines and despite the loss of Gregory Campbell, they remain a very tough team. Zdeno Chara has been a minutes hog while Tuukka Rask has been absolutely phoneomenal along the way.
Chicago enters the series with a few key contributors beginning to heat up. Patrick Kane’s recent hat trick was accompanied by a pair of assists from Jonathan Towes. Corey Crawford has been very strong in net and Chicago’s defense has been nearly as good as any one else.
Winning this series will be no treat and I believe that after a short Conference Finals series killed some of the momentum coming off previous rounds.
Keys for Boston
Exert your influence: The Bruins managed to get the Penguins running around thanks to their physical play. While the Blackhawks are a more physically engaged team, there is still a difference between the Burins and Blackhawks makeup. If the Bruins can set the physical tone, they may push Chicago off their game plan.
Tuukka Time: Tuukka Rask has been unreal. He had a few ugly goals against in the first round but has remain nearly perfect since then. He’s gotten hot at the right time and the Bruins are beneficiaries.
Win the line matching: I think you’d be hard pressed to find a better pair of two-way forwards than David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron. They’re phenomenal shut down players and both of their lines are equally dangerous defensively as they are at scoring. If they can get the matchups they want here, these two lines will have a field day.
Z-Factor: I don’t know if Kane, Toews, Hossa or someone else will get a steady diet of Chara, but he’s been the one to neutralize the opposition. If Chara is successful in silencing a line, the Bruins will be at an advantage.
Keys for Chicago
Special Teams: Both Boston and Chicago have been near perfect killing penalties. The Blackhawks need to find a way to score some power play goals while continuing to keep the Bruins up-and-down power play shut out.
Smart matching: Considering that Zdeno Chara will have the opportunity to match one of Chicago’s lines (plus the threat of Bergeron’s line), the Blackhawks will need to find a way to generate consistent if one of their top lines has been neutralized.
Depth matters: Bryan Bickell’s scoring surge has been welcome in the Windy City. Between Kane, Sharp, Hossa and Bickell, the Hawks have a solid set of scorers heading into this series. The type of depth scoring that Bickell represents will be a major part of any success the Blackhawks have.
Net protector: Corey Crawford has been awesome. That doesn’t mean I still don’t know how much confidence I have in him. Perhaps I’m a naysayer, but I still get a little nervous watching him. If Crawford maintains and the Hawks shelter him well, they could be in business.
Outcome: I have a strange feeling that the Bruins win in 7 in this series. I just think they’re too defensively sound and have too much size for the Hawks to counter.