TUESDAY NOVEMBER 21, 2017
 
Blog THROWIN SMOKE
FLIP A COIN FOR THE STANLEY CUP
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In the 86 years that the Chicago Blackhawks and Boston Bruins franchises have existed, they’ve never met in the Stanley Cup Finals until this year.

Yet it’s amazing how similar they are coming in.

Both teams were underdogs in the Conference Finals but dominated their opponents, with the Bruins sweeping past the talented Pittsburgh Penguins in four straight and the Hawks thumping the grinding L.A. Kings in five. 

Both teams were written off at some point during the playoffs. Chicago has lost only one of their last eight games since going down three games to one to Detroit, while Boston has lost only one of their past nine since going down 4-1 with 10 minutes left in Game 7 against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Both teams have two stud defencemen. The Bruins have used big Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg to stop their opponents’ top lines, while Chicago has leaned on Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook to chew up big minutes. In the Hawks’ double-OT clincher against the Kings, Keith led all skaters with 40:12 of playing time. The hulking Chara leads all active players by averaging just over 29 minutes per game. 

Both teams have come to depend on secondary scoring. Bryan Bickell led the Blackhawks in scoring over the first two rounds while stars Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane took turns disappearing. David Krejci and Nathan Horton lead the Bruins with 21 and 17 points respectively, while Tyler Seguin and Jaromir Jagr have only one goal between them.

And both teams have had goaltenders play over their heads en route to the Finals. Chicago’s Corey Crawford leads the playoffs with a 1.74 goals-against average, while Boston’s Tuukka Rask has the league’s best save percentage, at .943. Who says you need a high-paid, franchise goaltender to win the Cup? 

So as much as these two teams are similar, it’s their differences that will ultimately determine the winner. 

The Bruins smothered Sidney Crosby and the Penguins – none of Crosby, Evgeni Malkin or Kris Letang registered a point in their Eastern Conference Finals series. They crowd the slot and passing lanes and rely on sloppy defense and turnovers to create offense.

The Blackhawks used their superior team speed to evade the Kings’ punishing defence, something the Penguins chose not to do against the Bruins. And having Toews, Kane, Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa rediscover their scoring touches definitely gives the Blackhawks an advantage over the Bruins in terms of talent up front. 

But the Bruins have destiny on their side – their comeback win against the Leafs in the final game of the first round was one for the ages, and it would be a shame to have it wasted without a championship.

Having two teams as evenly matched as these promises a phenomenal final series. A prediction? Boston will struggle to match Chicago’s team speed and scoring depth, and the Hawks will win their second Cup in four seasons in a seven-game thriller.

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