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Stanley Cup Final Preview: Blackhawks best will beat the Bruins

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

The Chicago Blackhawks and the Boston Bruins square off in an original six matchup which is the first since 1979. The cities are comparable in many ways and although the teams play different styles, their accomplishments in the playoffs are similar. The Bruins have a slight edge in playoff rankings after Round 3, partly due to playing one fewer game on their way to the Finals.

This year's Cup Finals matchup is in many ways too close to call. My thoughts as to what might take place won't be based entirely on hockey analytics which are compiled using some stats that include a great deal of subjectivity. The most important factors in looking at what team has the best chance of winning will go beyond key matchups.

Much has been made of which top defensive pairing will be able to make the most impact. Will it be Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg or Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook?

Both goalies have had great post seasons with Boston's Tuukka Rask coming in with an outstanding save percentage of .943. Will Corey Crawford be able hold his own versus Rask?

Will Jonathan Toews be able to get his goal scoring touch back? Or will a combination of two talented centers for the Bruins, David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron be able to shut down Toews?

Will the more physical Bruins pound the Hawks into submission? Or will the Blackhawks resolve stay strong and make Boston conform to their style of play?

All those questions are important and will be answered in the end, but my thinking is there are factors which may play a bigger role overall.

The Blackhawks have only played a few games this post season where they have been impressive from start to finish. The Hawks will need to reach another level of consistency to beat Boston and win the Cup. In my view the best of the Blackhawks is yet to come.

Joel Quenneville will look for favorable matchups and his counterpart Claude Julien will be doing the same. The play of Dave Bolland will have a big influence on this series and will heavily impact the Blackhawks chances to win.

There is no substitute for good goaltending and injuries can have a big say as well. The better players for the Hawks have to be noticeable but if Bolland can play effectively versus the top lines of Boston, Quenneville has more flexibility than Julien.

Quenneville could use the Toews line, which to start should include Bryan Bickell and Patrick Kane, versus Boston's leading scorer Krejci. In that case Bergeron who is one of the top defensive centers in the game will not be covering Toews as often as Julien might like.

If Bolland is playing at a high level Quenneville won't hesitate to use him when Krejci is on the ice. If so, Bergeron probably shadows Toews which leaves Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp with a better opportunity to shine.

The edge for the Blackhawks is they have four highly skilled forwards that can score and a potential shut down center in Bolland. If Quenneville can use the Bolland line to play important minutes the way he did in Game 5 versus Los Angeles that will bode well for the Hawks.

Much has been made of how physical the Bruins are and they do play a dump and chase style like no other club. The Blackhawks need to have more puck possession to win and in that case they will be outhit for the most part.

As long as Chicago players don't get bashful and can take the punishment the amount of hitting won't matter as much. Every team tries to punish the Hawks and so far they have held up pretty well.

The key will be if Boston can grind away and be able to score enough to win. If so their chances go way up, if not they will more likely have to conform and could get caught chasing the quick playing Blackhawks.

A bigger cause for concern is Boston is a superior faceoff team. The Hawks centers must bring a top effort to somehow win close to 50% of all draws as a group. That will be a challenge, and Michal Handzus needs to return to top form in this series. Losing important faceoffs could be a difference maker in low scoring games.

Defensively the Blackhawks have the deepest group of defenders in the NHL. From numbers one through six they are the best passing defense in the league and they will need to be. The Hawks offense starts with the puck movement and passing of their defensemen which creates the high tempo Chicago offense.

There is a concern the Bruins defenders have been hitting the net and scoring goals. The Hawks will be in trouble if they sag in too far and allow the Boston point men to move up and shoot freely.

The Bruins have a few underrated players and forward Brad Marchand is one. He's like Andrew Shaw with more skill and will make his presence felt. The Bruins would have had an important edge with their bottom six forwards, but lost a good one in Gregory Campbell to injury.

Both teams have great penalty killing units which should make power play goals tough to come by. A big factor could be which scores more power play goals but it is probably more likely neither side will get many.

The way the Bruins have gotten here by sweeping the Penguins has given them favoritism in the eyes of many so called hockey experts. Most in the media seem to be picking the Bruins and they could be right.

This isn't a Cup or bust year for the Blackhawks like in 2010. This team won't be demolished because of salary cap concerns this summer. In any regard getting to the Finals is an opportunity that might not happen again in a long time. This group will be focused on getting the job done and should continue to play with confidence.

My prediction is based on which team is the most versatile and is slightly deeper from top to bottom. Simply put the Blackhawks have shown they can succeed in tight low scoring contests as well as more high scoring affairs throughout the season.

The comfort zone for Chicago to have success is larger than that of Boston. The ultimate question is which club will be able to play their favorite style more frequently with success.

The Bruins have scored more of late, but basically they are a defensively sound dump and chase team. The Blackhawks could win a few different ways and have shown that all year long.

A simplistic but accurate stat is goal differential, there isn't any subjectivity involved. In the more difficult Western Conference the Hawks scored 53 goals more than they gave up. During the regular season Boston scored 22 more goals than they surrendered. The 31 goal difference is substantial and should not be ignored.

The Blackhawks will have to play at a higher level than they have thus far in the playoffs to win the Stanley Cup. My belief is they have the ability to reach another level.

That same thinking must be why Chicago is a 3-2 favorite in Las Vegas to win the Cup. Maybe home ice, plus more options for Quenneville has a lot to do with the favoritism.

The Hawks have shown the versatility to survive all season. If they are able to play at their highest level it will be too much for Boston to handle.

This should be one heck of a series but my choice is the Blackhawks will win the Stanley Cup. The best of the Hawks will beat the best of the Bruins.

I will be back on Thursday morning and you can follow me on Twitter @AlCimaglia.

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