Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final between the Boston Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks is going to be the best game we’ve seen all postseason long.
Boston and Chicago have been tested throughout the Stanley Cup playoffs and to this point, both conference champions have passed. But in Game 1, only one team is going to come out on top to take a 1-0 series lead. The Bruins and Blackhawks are going to put forth their best efforts to set the tone early in the series and be one step closer to hoisting the Stanley Cup.
The Bruins fought off the top-seeded Pittsburgh Penguins, while the Blackhawks made it look easy against the Los Angeles Kings, the reigning Stanley Cup Champions. This series is going to be outstanding and whichever team takes Game 1 is going to have a huge advantage going forward.
So, will the Bruins take Game 1 on the road or will Blackhawks fans be partying in the streets? Let’s take a look at a few predictions as to what’s going to happen once both conference champions take the ice on Wednesday night in Chicago.
Both Goalies Stand on Their Heads
Tuukka Rask and Corey Crawford have been outstanding throughout the postseason. There’s no other way to put it. Both players have been strong in net in nearly every game and have come through with big save after big save. Neither has had an easy path to the Stanley Cup Final either.
While the Bruins definitely faced some tough competition along the way, nothing was more impressive than their sweep of the No. 1 seeded Pittsburgh Penguins. Pittsburgh was the most dangerous team all year long and featured players that could put the puck in the net whenever they wanted. But Rask stonewalled them.
Crawford has been stellar in every round thus far, stopping nearly every shot that he’s faced. With so many great goal-scorers on Chicago, he also knows that even if he allows a goal or two, his teammates have his back. Crawford has only allowed three or more goals in five of the 17 games he's played in this postseason.
Here’s a closer look at how Rask and Crawford have played to this point in the playoffs:
In Game 1, both teams are going to come out firing and Rask and Crawford need to be on top of their game. A quick goal could go a long way in this one and losing momentum in the first period could cost a team the Stanley Cup opener. Both goalies will be ready, though.
Rask and Crawford will each play great in Game 1, making it extremely difficult for either team to get on the scoreboard. Don’t be surprised if this is a very low-scoring game which might need extra time to determine which franchise takes a 1-0 series lead.
David Krejci Scores a Late Goal
All David Krejci has done this postseason is score goals. Well, that’s not 100 percent true. He does a lot of other things on the ice, including making crisp passes so his teammates can score too. For the most part, though, Krejci’s job is to beat the goalie and put a goal up on the scoreboard.
Through 16 games in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Krejci leads all players in points and goals—he’s also one assist away from tying Kris Letang for the lead. Krejci has been good in every period, scoring three in the first, three in the second, two in the third and one in overtime. He’s just been great.
Krejci scored four goals for Boston in the opening round of the postseason against Toronto, but was held scoreless in the following round against New York. He put the pedal to the metal in the Eastern Conference Finals against Pittsburgh, though. In four games, he scored four goals and helped the Bruins secure a spot in the Stanley Cup Final against Chicago.
Here’s what Krejci’s coach, Claude Julien, told Chris Gasper of The Boston Globe about his star forward:
“I think he’s one of those guys that really loves the playoffs and loves the intensity and excitement that comes with it and really gets up for those,” said Julien.
Scoring in the Stanley Cup opener is going to be a tough feat for Krejci, as Crawford has been great to this point, as previously mentioned. But there’s no question that his hot streak will be kept intact in Game 1. Krejci has scored three goals in the third period or later. He’ll do the same here, giving the Bruins their only goal of the game.
Blackhawks Take Opener in OT
Let’s recap quickly as to how we got to this point. Rask and Crawford will both be outstanding and Krejci is going to score a late goal, which I think will come sometime in the middle of the third period. Let’s say that Chicago is down a goal with 12 minutes to play.
As the clock continues to dwindle down on the Blackhawks, Chicago will continue to attack the zone. Chicago will be forced to pull Crawford with a little over a minute remaining in order to get the extra man on the ice. With the Blackhawks’ net empty, Jonathan Toews will deflect a shot from the point past Rask to tie the game up.
The Bruins have played in five overtime games this postseason and one of them, Game 3 against Pittsburgh, went to double overtime. The Blackhawks have gone to overtime four times and they too have played in a double overtime matchup, coming in Game 5 against the Kings—which won the series for Chicago.
So, which conference champion will prevail in Game 1?
Well, ever heard of Patrick Kane? While Krejci has been the postseason MVP thus far, Kane has been very good as well. He’s scored six goals and has eight assists while taking the second-most shots of any player in the playoffs, five behind Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin.
Half of Kane’s six goals have come in the third period or later. Look for him to get a great scoring opportunity late in the first overtime, catching the Bruins’ defense sleeping. He’ll dangle left and right and then fire a shot top-shelf to send the United Center into pandemonium. Chicago takes Game 1.