On the surface, the Chicago Blackhawks appear to be evenly matched with the Boston Bruins in the final playoff series of 2013, but perception isn't always reality. The Bruins have a clear edge in a few key areas, and Boston will win this series in five games to take home the Stanley Cup.
If we were judging these two teams based on their regular-season performances, Chicago would be the easy pick. After all, the Blackhawks were the best team in the NHL during the strike-shortened season, having only lost seven games in regulation.
That said, Boston has proven to be the superior team this postseason.
By the end of the 2013 Stanley Cup Final, the Bruins will have won their seventh championship and second in three years.
Here are a few reasons why.
David Krejci is a Man Possessed
Goals will come at a premium price in this series, with both teams featuring excellent goalies. Thankfully for Boston, Krejci has been on a tear this postseason, racking up 21 total points on nine goals and 12 assists.
ESPN's Barry Melrose has Krejci pegged as his early Conn Smyth winner, and after his performance thus far in the playoffs it's not hard to see why:
Krejci's postseason heroics have spurred his entire team to greatness, and he's not finished just yet. He, along with Nathan Horton and Milan Lucic, will outscore Chicago's front line and outmuscle them at the point of attack.
Boston's Defense is Superb
Since the Bruins allowed 18 goals in their brutal seven-game series against the Toronto Maple Leafs, the team's defense has really solidified into a cohesive unit. In the nine games since, Boston has only allowed 12 goals and just two in its last four games.
Not only is this unit great at shutting down opposing offenses, but it's also capable of scoring goals in transition.
Led by captain Zdeno Chara, whose been phenomenal in the playoffs, Boston has been superb at scoring points on the heels of playing excellent defense.
In addition to his 11 points, Chara is also responsible for perhaps the best play of the postseason, as shown by the NHL on Twitter:
He, along with stalwart Dennis Seidenberg, emerging star Torey Krug and Johnny Boychuck (who has scored five goals this postseason) will effectively shut down the Blackhawks' front line in the Stanley Cup Final.
Tuukka Rask is a Brick Wall
As well as Krejci and Boston's forwards are playing, Chicago won't be able to keep up with the Bruins given the dominance of Rask at the net.
Posting an impressive 12-4 record this postseason, Rask has been brilliant defending his goal, posting a .943 save percentage and allowing just 1.75 goals per game.
Those numbers don't do proper justice to Rask's impenetrable defense of late, however. Since Game 5 of the team's series against the New York Rangers, Rask has given up just three goals.
He stopped an astonishing 134-of-136 shots in the Bruins' four-game sweep of the Pittsburgh Penguins—the highest-scoring team during the regular season—as reported by the NHL:
Rask is on fire right now.
Hot goalies are the biggest key to winning the Stanley Cup, and right now there isn't a hotter goaltender on the face of this planet than the one playing for Boston.
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