Boston Bruins vs. Chicago Blackhawks
Yes, it’s the first "original six" matchup in the final since 1979.
Sure, they’re iconic, big market U.S. franchises, and I know there’s an intrigue that comes with it being their first meeting this season thanks to the lockout, but for me, it’s just two really good teams playing to be the last one standing.
Let’s start with what they have in common: talent, depth (in goal, on defense and upfront), hunger and the experience of over-coming adversity.
How did Mitch do on his previous predictions?
The Bruins did to the Penguins what the banged-up Kings couldn’t do to the Blackhawks, so Mitch was 1-for-2 last round leaving him 10-and-4 overall.
If only one of the finalists had stared elimination down and moved-on that would seem to be an edge, but since the Bruins devastated the Leafs at the last minute and the Hawks grounded the Wings – these are two mentally tough teams.
Upfront, the Bruins have playoff scoring leader David Krejci leading one line while all-world Patrice Bergeron leads another.
Add in two more lines that can skate and play with "weight," plus have the ability to chip in offense and Boston is tough to handle.
The loss of Gregory Campbell (broken leg, #ImGregoryCampbell) is a blow, and the Bruins ability to get quality minutes from their bottom six could be a factor in swaying the series their way. Rich Peverly centering third line is worth keeping an eye on.
Chicago boasts Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa, Patrick Kane and Patrick Sharp in its top six.
Winnipeg’s own Toews hasn’t been an offensive force but found a way to be a difference-maker in the closer against the Kings and will be vital to the Hawks’ hopes.
Kane hasn’t been consistent but has to have some confidence from his three-goal finale against L.A.
At the back, Boston offers up Zdeno Chara while Chicago can counter with Duncan Keith (different players, but studs just the same).
Beyond the marquee guys, Boston seems to be more stable with Seidenberg, Boychuk, Ferrence, McQuaid and Krug – not to mention they’ve got 15 goals from their "d."
Brent Seabrook is back on track after a down-spell against the Wings and Oduya/Hjalmarsson are a nice second pair. Leddy and Rozsival round things out and while Rozsival has had good spells, Leddy’s minutes are limited.
In goal, Boston’s Tuukka Rask is considered a Conn Smythe contender while Chicago’s Corey Crawford has nearly matched Rask’s numbers.
Rasks’ .985 saves percentage in the four-game sweep of the Penguins (two shut-outs) is mind-boggling and leads me to feel he’s more likely to win the battle-within-the-battle between the keepers.
Claude Julien and Joel Quenneville are quality, experienced coaches that know their teams. They also know their special teams.
Both clubs are superb on the PK and not so good on the PP. Chicago at 94.8 percent when short in these playoffs, and Boston kept Pittsburgh off the board with the extra-man in the conference final.
Add it all up and you’ve got a very interesting match-up starting Wednesday, June 12 on CBC with Hockey Tonight at 6:30 p.m. CST.
Best guess: Boston in six
I thought the Kings would wear down the Hawks last round, instead Chicago was too quick for a banged-up L.A.
This time, Boston seems to be playing it their way right and may be able to do what L.A. couldn’t.
I feel a little better about Boston on defence and in goal. If they can win in Chicago, and they’ve been great on the road so far, then they’ll lift the cup for the second time in three years.