Blackhawks vs Bruins: Stanley Cup Final Preview

BOS vs CHI Cup

The Stanley Cup Final begins on Wednesday night, and history will be made. When this series is done, either the Blackhawks or the Bruins will be the first team to win a second championship since the last lockout.

How will one team finish the series on top? Let’s look ahead at some key match-ups, and make a prediction.

Kane Seguin

European Vacation

During the lockout, Patrick Kane and Tyler Seguin were teammates with Biel of the Swiss-A League. Kane played 20 games, scoring 13 goals with 10 assists. Seguin, who arrived before Kane, played 29 games and registered 25 goals and 15 assists.

In these playoffs, Kane has six goals and eight assists in 16 games; of course, three of those six goals came in Game Five against Los Angeles. Seguin has only one goal and three assists in 16 postseason games.

Bickell

Big Boys

A lot has already been said about Bryan Bickell’s upcoming free agency, and he’s earned as many accolades in this postseason as he has extra dollars this coming summer. With eight goals and 55 hits, he has started to show that he can be a solid power forward at the NHL level.

But he isn’t the only bruising forward that will bring it in this series.

Milan Lucic enters the Final with 68 hits in 16 games, and his performance to bring the Bruins back in the finale against Toronto was remarkable. Lucic has only three goals in the postseason, but has added ten assists and his 13 points are actually more than he had in the entire 2011 postseason (12 points in 25 playoff games).

Saad gm 2

The Rookies

There are two rookies that could have a significant impact on this series.

With the emergence of Bickell as a top scorer for the Hawks, Brandon Saad has seen his role move from the top line (where he spent most of the regular season) to a supporting role. During practice on Tuesday, Saad skated on a new-look third line with Dave Bolland and Andrew Shaw. The Calder finalist has only four assists in the postseason.

For Boston, undrafted defenseman Torey Krug has been a playoff revelation. With only three NHL games on this resume before the postseason began, Krug began the playoffs as an afterthought. But since entering the lineup, the Michigan State product has four goals in nine games.

Bolland

 The Pests

Bolland has been chirping since before his back surgery in 2009, and has been able to get under opponents skin at times during this postseason. Unfortunately, Bolland has 16 postseason penalty minutes and only one point to his credit, and he is averaging just over 12 minutes per game in 12 playoff contests.

While Bolland has been underwhelming in these playoffs, Shaw continues to be a revelation. In spite of his team-high 26 penalty minutes, he has been an effective player around the net and has four goals and three assists to show for his hard work.

Boston’s Brad Marchand talks as much as anyone in the league, but has been effective with his game as he has with his words. While he has equaled Bolland’s 16 penalty minutes, Marchand has put up 13 points and is plus-seven in the playoffs.

Sharp

The Leaders

Boston’s David Krejci leads the entire postseason with 21 points entering the Final, and Nathan Horton’s 17 are right behind him. What’s more remarkable is that Krejci is plus-14 and Horton is plus-21, and Krejci has a point in 12 of 16 Boston playoff games so far.

Chicago has only one player with a positive plus-minus in double-figures (Niklas Hjalmarsson: plus-10). And the Hawks are led by three players – Kane, Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa – with 14 points each.

While Boston’s scoring sheet is more top-heavy than Chicago’s, the difference in team scoring isn’t very different. The Bruins are scoring 1.77 even-strength goals per game in the playoffs, while the Blackhawks are scoring 1.44. And while the Bruins are averaging 3.12 per game to the Hawks’ average of 2.76, the Blackhawks bring the best penalty kill in the postseason into the Final.

Keith

The Norris Winners

Zdeno Chara and Duncan Keith won the Norris Trophy in back-to-back season, with Chara winning in 2009 and Keith after the Hawks’ Cup win in 2010. And in these playoffs, they have played well again.

Keith missed Game Four against the Kings, serving a suspension for whacking Jeff Carter in the face “accidentally.” As coach Joel Quenneville has been able to spread out the ice time on the Hawks’ blue line more effectively this postseason, Keith is averaging only 25:42 per game, and has 15 hits and 21 blocked shots.

Chara is averaging 29:21 on the ice per game and has piled up 53 hits and 33 blocked shots. Many have argued that Chara should have won the Norris again this year, though he isn’t even a finalist; Montreal’s PK Subban will reportedly win the award this year.

Hjalmarsson

The “Other” Defensemen

While Chara and Keith receive most of the attention on their respective blue lines, there are a couple other defensemen having solid playoffs.

Hjalmarsson has been credited with only 17 hits and 32 blocked shots, but his play has improved with each game since the middle of the Detroit series. Indeed, he may have been the Blackhawks most valuable player against the Kings.

For Boston, Johnny Boychuk has had a huge postseason. After scoring only one goal and adding five assists in 44 regular season, Boychuk has flipped those numbers and has five goals and one assist in 16 playoff games. He has also piled up 48 hits and 55 blocked shots.

Toews 2013 Conf Title

Prediction: This won’t be the last piece of hardware Jonathan Toews accepts this season, and I’m not referring to the Selke Trophy.

Blackhawks in 7.

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18 Responses to Blackhawks vs Bruins: Stanley Cup Final Preview

  1. JoeyCollins says:

    I just want this series to start already. I really think the East (penguins as we all saw) was overrated this year, and the Hawks are the superior team here. It will be a tough series, and i appreciate what Boston has done, but this Hawks team has too many weapons over a seven game series. I say hawks win it, game 6, OT, Hossa with the goal.

  2. SouthSideHawkMan says:

    Great insight Tab! I think Im nuts but im thinking Hawks in 6 or less,….The more I look into the stats the more I like that Hawks! Specifically that Boston leads the playoffs in giveways and the Hawks lead in takeaway.

    Boston’s Giveaways+Hawks take aways-Boston’s team speed= Stanley Cup for the HAWKS!

  3. Mark L says:

    Tab – Should we be concerned with Boston’s FO%? It looks like they may own the dot against us, especially given Towes’ recent struggles. Thoughts?

  4. Tab Bamford says:

    Good question, Mark. Honestly, everyone on the roster except Toews has been getting crushed at the dot the entire postseason, and the Hawks are in the Final. Is it a concern? Sure. But the Hawks have overcome so far. The Bergeron-Toews duel should be a lot of fun to watch.

  5. Tre says:

    We can look at playoff performance and regular season performance and compare styles and skill and size, but without any inter-conference play I think all predictions have less foundation than normal.

  6. Tim G says:

    Is it just me or does anyone else really want to see Bollig tally a point? 0 career points, even though he has had some chances. I think it would be pretty sweet if he could pot one. Actually, only him, Crawford and Brookbank are without a point in this postseason. EVERYONE else has atleast 1. This might be his best shot in this series depending how this game plays out. If Q wants to shift strategys mid-series, he may only get 1 or 2 opportunities.

    Athough, I think its a foregone certainty that we will see Bollig vs Thornton at some point!

    On a more serious note, the player I’m watching tonight is Leddy. He has been statistically and actually the worst of our defensemen. He showed flashes of brillance mixed with young player mistakes, with more mistakes thank brillance. His speed off the rush could be huge for the secondary scoring. He can get the puck through the neutral zone and in deep for Saad/Shaw. Then they can forecheck and win a battle or 2 and set up “dirty area” goals. I think a good Game 1 one will be key for #8. If his confidence is up, and he can limit those mistakes, it will allow us to roll all 6 d-pairings evenly and keep all the D-men fresh, which i think will be hugely important in this series. If 2/7 have to play 30 minutes early in this series… im more worried about games 5-7.

  7. John Bertoletti says:

    Tab: Do you think Toews has a wrist injury?

  8. EbonyRaptor says:

    When the playoffs started and I allowed myself to think “what if”, I considered the Penguins to be the biggest challenge the Hawks would face if they made it to the Finals. I was certainly not alone thinking that because the Pens and Hawks were neck and neck for the Presidents Trophy until the final week or so.

    Throughout the season, I was surprised that Boston couldn’t pull away from Montreal and make it a two team race with Pittsburgh for EC supremacy. I looked at the Boston lineup, essentially the same as the 2011 Cup winning team, and thought they should have left Montreal in their dust but somehow the Montreal munchkins not only stayed with the big bad Bruins, they actually seemed to have their number, going 2-1-1 against them in the regular season. I figured it must be one of those intra-division rivalries that go beyond simple roster matchups.

    Then the playoffs started and Boston’s 1st round opponent was Toronto. I had seen Toronto play a few times during the year and knew they played a fast paced and physical game and were one of the most penalized teams in the league. I thought Boston would have no problem defeating them because if any team could stand up to the Leafs physical game – it would be the big Bruins. I was surprised that Toronto took them to the brink and probably would have won the series if not for a miraculous finish by the Bruins.

    In rounds 2 and 3, Boston dominated and easily dispatched the Rangers and Penguins. So, what sense can be made from all of that. Montreal and Toronto gave Boston trouble but NYR and Pittsburgh did not.

    What I believe the answer to be is ‘speed’. Or to be more specific – transition game speed. Montreal plays a fast transition game much like the Hawks do, as does Toronto. The Rangers and Pens do not play that style. The conclusion I draw is that the key to beating Boston is a fast paced transition game. The Hawks are the best fast paced transition team in the league.

    Blackhawks in 7, maybe 6 if a bounce or two goes their way.

  9. Tim G says:

    Thats a good point ER… As solid their D is, even aside from Chara, with guys like Seidenberg, Ference and Boychuk, they dont have a lot of Defensive speed. Hamilton Krug have seemed to hold their own, but I think your right that we can exploit them on the transition (part of the reason i think a fast start from Leddy could be huge for us). I’m confident Keith will exploit this and even Oduya with stretch passes. but if Leddy is on too… I think We can wrap this up on home ice in Five… or like you said just one or two bounces and 6 would do it. I don’t see us losing this series… but thats why they play the games. We wont know until they get on the ice.

    6 1/2 more hours… thats too long… I WANT SOME STANLEY CUP HOCKEY!

    GO HAWKS!

  10. jeff says:

    Nice post ER.

  11. Rufus T. Firefly says:

    What the Hawks need to do is simple. Grab one win in the first two games. I’m not seeing either team winning 3 games in a row. So you go to Boston tied 1-1, then the focus is to split there. So you come back to Chicago 2-2 and “must” win game 5. Then you have two bites at the apple to seal the deal in game 6 and game 7. I know this sounds goofy, but against a great opponent that’s what you aim for.

    So leave Chicago in a few days tied 1-1. That’s honestly the mission. We are SOL if we lose both home games. Alternatively, our task becomes easier if we go 2-0. Which I don’t honestly expect.

    Boston is a really good team. Better than anything we’ve seen in the Western Conference.

    Toews? Where there is smoke there is fire. Lots of talk about him being injured, and I have heard nothing to refute that. So assume the Hawks need to overcome the Captain not being 100%. We did that against Detroit and LA. Need to do that again.

  12. Tom Jaremka says:

    Many good points, as usual, from the Hawk bloodline. What we saw from the Kings is very similar to what we will see from the Bruins. If it wasn’t for Quick, we would have blown the Kings out BIGTIME in 4 games.

    The Kings found out the hard way that to play the body on the Hawks doesn’t do any good if you don’t take the Hawks OFF THE PUCK. Our speed and skill will take apart a team that hits everything in sight. In addition, a team/player gets exhausted playing the body at all costs.

    Our speed, quickness and back checking allow us to get takeaway after takeaway on other teams. We lead the playoffs in takeaways because we are faster that other teams and we back check like “hound dogs on a rabbit”. The Bruins turn the puck over constantly because they dump the puck into the zone and are too slow to retrieve it. That is a turnover!!

    If we can take away the neutral zone and pressure the puck we will be fine.

    Hawks in 6!!

  13. Joe says:

    Good read and good comments. Bruins fan here. I am very excited for this matchup. Despite all of the hand-me-down nostalgia of it being an original six finals, I think these teams are evenly matched in more ways than not. To the person that suggested that the Pens don’t operate with a speedy transition game, I think you’re mistaken. Additionally, you’re all right that some of the sluggish back check from the Bruins could be their downfall in this series. That said, you can’t overlook the Bruins transition speed either. For a team that doesn’t have the fastest skaters, they’re out of the D zone and forechecking quickly enough to create a multitude of odd man rushes.

    Another question I have about this preview is about goal-tending. I think Rask, with the confidence built from the last series, should be fine. To what extent has Crawford seen the kind of crease presence that Boston will bring? I know Detroit of a few years ago would have a lot of presence in the slot, but I am not sure they played the same type of game this year.

    Finally, quick transitions are great, but the key to this series, in my opinion is not defense or offense, it is whichever team wins both faceoffs and puck battles along the boards. Puck possesion, in my opinion, will be the #1 key to succes for either team because with the puck, each team is a juggernaut.

    Good luck, Hawks (as a former quasi-hawk rooter due to my residence in Norfolk and former AHL affiliation with y’all) but ultimately, I am going to have to go with the Bruins this time around. :)

  14. Peter says:

    I like when enlightened fans of other teams can spur serious, respectful discussion.

    Crawford has played well in the postseason, but could still play better. I feel he has gotten sloppier as the playoffs have gone on, but his rebound control has been much better this year than last. The number of soft goals are down too or more spread out. I would say he does have trouble with people in front of him who completely block his line of sight (as any goaltender would). LA was the team who accomplished this the most in the playoffs against Chicago so far, but they only won one game. IMHO, if Crawford is able to steal a game. Win one when the Blackhawks have no business taking it, the series will favor the Hawks. If that doesn’t happen I see a long series that I am giving to the Hawks because of home ice.

    I think Chara will get tired by the end of a long series because the Hawks will try different things instead of trying to force the issue (Malkin and Crosby). I know the Bruins just played Pittsburgh, but I think the Blackhawks offense can be tougher to deal with because of the consistency of the 4 lines putting pressure on the goalie. That said I like that part of the Bruins game if they can maintain puck possession. The backcheck of the Hawks team wide is probably more tenacious than what the Bruins have seen yet. It will be interesting to watch unfold.

  15. Sr. Brad says:

    Great points by ER (what’s new), Tom and Peter…you guys see the core of the issues in this series…and Tom, think of this, had the refs not been a liability in the LA series as well, the Hawks might have won in 3 games…

    Remember my comments after game 3??? If that’s the best that LA can throw at us…and we played horrible, and yet we had chance after chance after chance to tie it and likely win it…well, I had no doubt that we would win the series…that’s how I feel about the Boston series…I don’t care about Chara, or Boychuck or Marchand, or whomever else…they had all season to show that they were better than the Blackhawks but they didn’t…and the teams that they struggled against all season were the speedy teams that were tough to play against…like TO and MON…this is why the Hawks needed to go through what they went through with the Wings…we needed to get tougher mentally, and to make us harder to play against…we’ve done that now, and boston will have to deal with us, not the other way around. Let all the experts talk…the Hawks have been THE best team in all season long, and I haven’t witnessed anything yet to detract from that belief.

  16. RyanDale says:

    Will the national media ever stop telling us 19 lost his composure vs Detoit?

    Chicago in 6

  17. Tim G says:

    WOW… Just WOW!… 3 more wins baby!

  18. Mike says:

    Crawford…….Crawford………Crawford………..Crawford………..Crawford

    Was good to see the 2 youngest guys on the team score. Also thought the ice at the UC was in much better shape than it normally is. Both teams seemed to be quick.

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