The Stanley Cup Final will feature two Original Six franchises for the first time since 1979, and there is a lot of information to digest. By all accounts, neither the Boston Bruins nor the Chicago Blackhawks should have made it this far, but determination enabled each team to pull off memorable comebacks and advance to the finals. The Bruins battled back from a 3-1 deficit in Game 7 against the Toronto Maple Leafs, while the Blackhawks won three straight to eliminate the Detroit Red Wings.
Since making their comebacks, both teams have been on a path of domination, and they haven't had time to look back on what could have been. Instead, the Bruins and Blackhawks trudged on, and now they are staring at their potential reflections while shielding their eyes from the glare of Lord Stanley's Cup.
With the Stanley Cup Final set to start on Wednesday, here is a complete guide to the Bruins vs. Blackhawks showdown.
Game 1 is Wednesday night.
The Boston Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks will start their series on Wednesday, June 12 at the United Center in Chicago. Here is the complete schedule for the 2013 Stanley Cup Final.
Game 1: Wednesday, June 12, at Chicago, 8 p.m. ET, NBC
Game 2: Saturday, June 15, at Chicago, 8 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network
Game 3: Monday, June 17, at Boston, 8 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network
Game 4: Wednesday, June 19, at Boston, 8 p.m. ET, NBC
Game 5*: Saturday, June 22, at Chicago, 8 p.m. ET, NBC
Game 6*: Monday, June 24, at Boston, 8 p.m. ET, NBC
Game 7*: Wednesday, June 26, at Chicago, 8 p.m. ET, NBC
There is a ton of history between the Bruins and Blackhawks.
The 2013 Stanley Cup Final is the first matchup between two Original Six teams since 1979. It is also the seventh time that these two teams have squared off in the playoffs.
The Bruins and Blackhawks have a great deal of history together, and here is how they have matched up with each other throughout NHL history.
|1926-27||Bruins||Blackhawks||10-5 (Aggregate Goal Series)||Preliminary Round|
|2012-13||???||???||???||Stanley Cup Final|
Toews is a top two-way forward for the Blackhawks.
Boston: Faceoff Efficiency (56 Percent Efficiency Rating)
The Boston Bruins have been the best faceoff team throughout the playoffs, and that could be a deciding factor against the Blackhawks.
The Blackhawks' inability to win pivotal faceoffs this postseason has been a negative, and it could have cost them a Stanley Cup berth. The Los Angeles Kings were able to force overtime in Game 5 because of an offensive-zone faceoff win.
In the upcoming final, each draw could be the difference between winning and losing a game, and the Bruins' aptitude in this area gives them a huge advantage against the Blackhawks.
Chicago: Penalty Kill (94.8 percent 55/58)
The most telling statistic for the Blackhawks is their penalty kill. They have been virtually perfect while shorthanded.
In this series, the penalty kill will be very important at home, as the Bruins have a 21 percent success rate on the power play. However, the Blackhawks' penalty kill will likely neutralize it during this series.
If Seguin breaks out, this will be a short series.
Up to this point, the Bruins have been dominant despite Tyler Seguin's lackluster performance. Seguin has only four points through 16 games, and he has been relegated to the Bruins' third line.
Seguin was outstanding for the Bruins in the regular season, but he hasn't had the same dominance during the postseason. His lack of production has been mystifying.
If that can change against the Blackhawks, the Bruins could win this series very early. Boston has enough horses and overall talent to keep up with the Blackhawks, but an emergence by Tyler Seguin would really swing the pendulum in its favor.
Rask has been very good for the Bruins thus far.
When Tim Thomas won a Conn Smythe Trophy and Stanley Cup for the Boston Bruins, he had a record of 16-9 with a 1.98 GAA.
Right now, Thomas' former backup is blowing those numbers out of the water.
Tuukka Rask currently is 12-4 with a 1.75 GAA and a .943 save percentage. Rask is in the zone right now, but can he sustain it against the Blackhawks? He has never shown this kind of dominance, and it is fair to question if he can play this way for one more series.
Anything can happen in the Stanley Cup Final, and this will be a huge question throughout the series for the Bruins. But right now, Rask is in a groove, and after keeping Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin scoreless, it appears that he can stop anyone.
Bickell is a menace around the crease.
Bryan Bickell's playoff performance this year has only added zeros to the contract he will sign as a free agent this summer. Bickell was nothing more than a bottom-six grinder heading into the playoffs, but he has turned into a competent power forward. He has eight goals and 13 points in 17 games thus far as one of the NHL's top playoff scorers.
While Bickell's offensive outburst has been great, can he keep it up against the Bruins?
The Bruins defense is one of the best in the NHL, which may limit Bickell's effectiveness. He might line up against heavyweight Milan Lucic, and that could take a toll on him.
While Bickell is a sizable player who can get physical, Lucic is a behemoth bruiser that isn't to be trifled with. The increased pressure on Bickell physically could get to him.
Patrice Bergeron is a likely candidate to win the Conn Smythe Trophy. There have been many moments when he has stepped up, and without him, the Bruins are not playing in the Stanley Cup Final.
"Big Game Bergeron" scored the tying and game-winning goals against the Toronto Maple Leafs in Game 7. He also tallied the game-winning goal in Game 3 against the Penguins in double overtime.
Bergeron has made critical plays on penalty kills, during 4-on-4 situations and has won key draws for the Bruins throughout the playoffs. He is one of the NHL's top two-way players, and he has solidified his legacy as a Boston Bruin throughout the 2013 playoffs.
Anticipate Bergeron playing a big role for the Bruins against the Blackhawks as the 2013 Conn Smythe winner.
Chara will lift the cup again
Boston Bruins 4, Chicago Blackhawks 2
Although the Blackhawks are the favorites, this series is the Bruins' to lose. They have a red-hot goaltender, a solid group of defensemen and a bunch of two-way forwards who can generate offense.
While the Blackhawks have a ton of offensive weapons and a solid defense, consider that the Bruins just shut down the NHL's top offense and power play.
If a team that was scoring over four goals per game on average couldn't beat the Bruins, how can the Blackhawks do the same? The Penguins scored only two goals against Boston, and they went 0-for-15 on the power play.
When you consider all the variables, the Bruins should win their second Stanley Cup in three years. The Blackhawks should put up a good fight, but Boston will win this series.