Bruins vs. Blackhawks: 5 Bold Predictions for the 2013 Stanley Cup Finals
Due to the lockout, these two teams have yet to face each other in 2013, giving this matchup a bit more of a mysterious feel since there's no real "barometer" for how these squads compare to each other. It's also the first time two Original Six franchises have met in the Final since the mid-70's, making this series a bit more special than usual.
It will be a tense, gasp-filled series for fans with rooting interests in either of these teams. For the rest of us, we'll be able to sit back and enjoy what is sure to be a close, hard-fought battle between the two best teams in hockey.
Every Game Decided by One Goal
A series can be closer than stat sheets and final scores let on. Sometimes that three-goal "blowout" that goes down early in a series isn't really a blowout at all. Maybe a goalie was standing on his head, or perhaps a player scored on literally every shot he took that night.
That's the way it breaks sometimes, but it won't be that way in this series.
Both the Chicago Blackhawks and Boston Bruins have the offense to hang in a run-and-gun style of game, and both teams possess the best and/or hottest goaltenders in these playoffs on top of that. This series will be chock full of close, hard-fought one-goal games.
These two squads are too evenly matched and have too many veterans to blow each other out at any juncture in the Final.
No Shutouts in the Series
Corey Crawford and Tuukka Rask were the two best goaltenders throughout the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and they'll face off for the right to lift the Stanley Cup on the biggest of stages in the final. They've both been incredible for their respective teams and have posted a handful of shutouts along the way.
While both netminders will continue to be major factors in these games due to their outstanding play, there will be no shutouts in this series. Rask and Crawford are either No. 1 or No. 2 in every statistical category (aside from shutouts), and neither will see their save percentages drop or their GAA skyrocket.
That said, there is too much star power out on the ice to allow either one of these guys another shutout for their already gaudy stat lines. They'll be good, but shutouts aren't in the cards here. The Bruins have scored more than three goals per game on average, and the 'Hawks are right behind them in offensive output.
Patrick Kane Finishes Series as Playoff Goal-Scoring Leader
Patrick Kane spent the first two rounds of the playoffs facing scrutiny over his lack out output. Sure, Jonathan Toews took a brunt of the assault from media pundits, but Kane was in the background putting up equally atrocious numbers.
Those days are a distant memory now that Kane has found his game. He was an unstoppable force of hockey nature in Game 5 against the Los Angeles Kings. With his Chicago Blackhawks in need of a hero, No. 88 once again donned the cape and buried the defending Cup champs with an overtime game winner that also capped off a hat trick.
Kane was outstanding throughout the Western Conference Final, and he tends to show up when it matters the most. David Krejci is currently the leading goal scorer in these playoffs, but Kane suddenly finds himself only three goals off that mark.
He'll be a rock star in this series and close that gap quickly, giving the 'Hawks a huge boost in the process.
Power Play Goals Will Determine the Outcome of the Series
The Chicago Blackhawks have the best penalty kill in the NHL right now, sporting a 94.8 percent kill rate. That's nearly perfect and kind of crazy. While not out of this world, the Boston Bruins also sport a sound PK, which stands at 86.5 percent.
To say that the penalty killing units on these two teams have outplayed their power-play counterparts would be an understatement
After three rounds of action, the B's are clicking only 15.6 percent of the time with the extra man. The 'Hawks aren't finding the back of the net more often either, as their power play is sitting at 13.7 percent.
It wouldn't be surprising to go long stretches in this series without seeing a power-play goal. However, when one of the teams does break through on the man advantage, it'll be with huge, over-the-top goals. There won't be a lot of power-play markers, but when they do come, they'll have a massive impact on the games.
The two teams are pretty evenly matched in the average goals scored department, and the goaltenders are the two best in these playoffs. All these things equal, special teams will be what tips the scales one way or the other.
The Television Ratings Will Double in 2013
The 2012 Stanley Cup Final pitted the Los Angeles Kings against the New Jersey Devils. While the series itself was outstanding and a lot of fun for diehard hockey fans (or fans of the Devils and Kings), it didn't have much mass appeal to the more casual onlookers.
That won't be an issue in 2013.
The Chicago Blackhawks and Boston Bruins are backed by two of the largest and most ravenous fanbases in the NHL. The Original Six "it" factor doesn't hurt either, nor do all the intriguing personalities that will be in the spotlight during this final.
On average, the Kings and Devils drew just shy of three million viewers per game. The B's and 'Hawks should have little trouble doubling that average, proving to everyone that not even another lockout can take the heart and soul out of this game.