The Chicago Blackhawks and Boston Bruins escaped the conference finals with little resistance, each needing five games or less to advance to the Stanley Cup Final and a chance to hoist hockey’s biggest prize.
The teams represent the Original Six in the first finals matchup to feature two of hockey’s most storied franchises since 1979—a five-game series that saw the Montreal Canadiens best the New York Rangers in convincing fashion.
Don’t expect the same result in this Original Six showdown.
As well as both teams have played in the Stanley Cup playoffs, the finals will present a challenge. Boston and Chicago didn’t face one another in the shortened regular season, and each will have to prepare for a very different style of hockey.
Let’s take a look at a pivotal storyline and predictions for the Stanley Cup Final and key in on the most important factors that will decide the outcome of the series.
When: Wednesday, June 12, at 8 p.m. ET
Where: United Center; Chicago, Ill.
Betting Lines (per SportBet.com): Chicago -1.5, Over/Under 5
Between the Pipes
Boston and Chicago have had no problem finding the net in the playoffs, and neither team has had many issues with stopping opponents from doing the same.
While there’s certainly something to be said for offensive firepower, all eyes will be on Tuukka Rask and Corey Crawford in this series—and why not? The pair has been unbelievable in the playoffs, finishing behind only Los Angeles Kings goalie Jonathan Bernier (who played one game) in save percentage.
Rask’s .943 save percentage is reason enough to feel confident in Boston’s chances in this series. With a 1.75 goals-against average, Chicago is going to have a hard time sneaking anything by him.
But like Rask, Crawford has been absolutely tremendous between the pipes, though he hasn’t received the same recognition for it. His save percentage (.935) is just behind Rask’s playoff mark, but he’s allowed just 1.74 goals against through three playoff series.
It seems a bit obvious to suggest goaltending will decide this series, but it has to be said. If Rask and Crawford continue defending the twine as they have done so far in the playoffs, goals will come at a premium.
Game 1 Prediction: Boston 3, Chicago 2
Despite Chicago’s dominance of late on home ice, it’s hard to envision a scenario in which the Bruins don’t feed off their absolutely torrid pace through the playoffs. Boston has too much momentum on its side to slow down now.
Given the unfamiliarity of the two teams this season, each squad’s top lines will need to take advantage of early scoring opportunities and mismatches. Unfortunately for Chicago, its top line hasn’t been all that impressive during the playoffs, instead relying on tremendous depth to do most of the damage.
But against a Boston team with incredible balance across its lines, mismatches will be hard to come by. And without stability in their top six, the Blackhawks will be faced with an uphill battle against a stifling Boston defense and Rask’s terrific play in net.
Game 1 is going to be extremely tight, but Boston gets a slight edge in the contest—and in the series.
Series Prediction: Boston 4, Chicago 3
Chicago struggled in the first round against a tough defensive team in the Minnesota Wild with a backup goalie in net, and while some of those same issues crept up in the ensuing series, the Blackhawks didn’t struggle to net goals in their conference finals series with the Kings.
But the Blackhawks haven’t faced a team as stout defensively as the Bruins.
Boston is relentless in the neutral zone and in their own defensive zone, applying pressure perhaps better than any team in the playoffs this year. Rask deserves credit for what he’s done between the pipes, but he wouldn’t have been nearly as dominant in the first three rounds without a tremendous defense in front of him.
Chicago will have its share of success in Boston’s defensive zone, but aggression and speed only go so far. In the end, the Bruins’ physicality will wear down Chicago’s attack and keep the Blackhawks from establishing enough momentum to sustain a championship run.
Look for Boston to notch bookend wins in this series to secure its second Stanley Cup in three years with a 4-3 series win.