Will Patrick Kane and company take Game 1 at the United Center?
In the Stanley Cup Final between the Boston Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks, it's the little things that will decide the winner. On their roads to the final, both teams have been largely successful in establishing their brand of hockey. However, the team that can succeed in completing the following tough tasks will have the advantage in Game 1.
Toughest Tasks: Boston
The Blackhawks rode a 24-game unbeaten streak to the NHL's best record, landing them home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs. In the confines of the United Center, Joel Quenneville's crew is 9-1. Boston needs to get out to a fast start and score the first goal of the game to quiet the crowd. If you hear The Fratellis' "Chelsea Dagger" in the early going, Chicago will have the decided advantage.
NHL Stanley Cup Final – Game 1. Bruins at Blackhawks, 8 ET. Game 1 winners have gone on to win Stanley Cup Final 76.7 percent of time— John Buccigross (@Buccigross) June 12, 2013
In order to win Game 1, the Bruins will also have to slow down Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. Though Chicago has relied largely on the production of guys like Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa, the two superstars are always dangerous and heating up. If you look at their game logs, the Hawks are 7-3 when Kane records a point and 6-0 when Toews does.
Toughest Tasks: Chicago
If there is one glaring weakness to Chicago's game in the playoffs, I'd point to its abysmal power-play, clicking at 13.7 percent. Boston's penalty kill has been quite solid, with a success rate of 86.5 percent. The Bruins have had their fair share of trips to the box, so if the star-studded Chicago unit can get on the board, it will be one step closer to a Game 1 victory.
Hawks working on the power-play and PK. pic.twitter.com/nSko4HimlV— Mike Morreale (@mikemorrealeNHL) June 11, 2013
Perhaps the toughest task of all for Chicago will be to stay away from the physical battle against the Bruins and to play its own game. Pittsburgh fell victim to this style of play, actually out-hitting Boston in the conference final, but hits are usually recorded when you don't have possession. If Chicago can control the puck and not succumb to the agitation like Brenden Morrow does in this clip, it will be successful.
Who wins Game 1?
None of these tasks will be easy, but the team that can execute its tasks more effectively will be primed for a Game 1 victory. Will Chicago be able to play its own game, or will the Bruins impose their will on yet another team?
If Boston can steal one on the road, it will take back home advantage for the rest of the series. However, I expect Chicago to ride the energy of the crowd to a 1-0 series lead. The puck drops at 8:00 p.m. ET Wednesday night.