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Stanley Cup Finals Series Preview: Chicago Blackhawks vs. Boston Bruins

Graham Jenkins |
June 12, 2013 | 11:07 a.m. PDT

Staff Writer

The Stanley Cup Finals are finally upon us. The Chicago Blackhawks and the Boston Bruins will battle for the hardest trophy to win in all of sports beginning this Wednesday in Chicago.

No. 1 Chicago Blackhawks vs. No. 4 Boston Bruins

Key Players

Due to the lockout, this will be the first time this season that the Western Conference and Eastern Conference will play against each other. Both teams took care of their opponents in the last round rather quickly, as the Bruins swept the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Blackhawks defeated the defending champion Los Angeles Kings in five games. The Bruins completely shut down the Penguins, holding a dynamic offense to two goals in four games, and not allowing a single power play goal. The Blackhawks broke down the brick wall also known as Jonathan Quick, and made the best goaltender in the playoffs look human.
Needless to say, both of these teams accomplished incredible feats.
Unfortunately for the Bruins, they will be without Gregory Campbell for this round, as he suffered a broken fibula in Game 3 while blocking Evgeni Malkin's slap shot, then battled through the pain to stay on the ice to kill the penalty and finish his shift
Corey Crawford has a 1.74 GAA and a .935 save percentage in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. (clydeorama/Creative Commons)
Corey Crawford has a 1.74 GAA and a .935 save percentage in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. (clydeorama/Creative Commons)
Looking at the goaltenders for both teams, Tuukka Rask is undoubtedly the hotter goalie, as he posted a 0.44 goals against average (GAA) and .985 save percentage in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Penguins. Overall, Rask has a 1.75 GAA and a .943 save percentage in the playoffs. His counterpart, Corey Crawford, has been consistently solid throughout the playoffs, posting an overall 1.74 GAA and a .935 save percentage. Those numbers took a slight hit from his 1.82 GAA, .927 save percentage performance against the Kings, but they do not deviate that much from his overall stats. Given how well both of these goaltenders have performed so far, and considering how stacked the defensive units are for each team, expect low-scoring games.
Strong defense leads to strong penalty killing, and predictably enough, both of these teams excel killing penalties. Chicago's penalty killing unit is the best in the playoffs at 94.7 percent (four goals allowed in 57 times shorthanded), while the Bruins are killing penalties at an 86.5 percent efficiency (seven goals allowed in 52 times shorthanded).
The power play units for both teams have not been great, as Chicago has converted 13.7 percent of their power plays (seven goals in 51 chances), while Boston has not fared much better at 15.6 percent (seven goals in 45 chances). As such, do not expect many power play goals in this series.
David Krejci leads the Bruins in points with 21 (nine goals, 12 assists), and he is followed closely by his linemate Nathan Horton (seven goals, 10 assists). To round out the top line for the Bruins, Milan Lucic has 13 points (three goals, 10 assists) so far.
Marian Hossa (seven goals, seven assists), Patrick Sharp (eight goals, six assists) and Patrick Kane (six goals, eight assists) have 14 points apiece to lead the way for the Blackhawks. While Jonathan Toews has scored only one goal thus far in these playoffs, he is still a dangerous offensive threat. This was showcased in his 2-on-1 with Patrick Kane, in which Kane buried the series-winning overtime goal past Quick to send Chicago to the Stanley Cup Finals.
In terms of even strength puck possession, the Bruins and Blackhawks are almost even with each other, with the Blackhawks holding a very slight edge over the Bruins in that department (53.57 percent vs. 52.73 percent). When the score is tied, the Blackhawks generate 57 percent of the game's total shots, and this is where they will have the biggest edge over the Bruins, who account for 51 percent of the game's total shots when the score is squared.
A deeper breakdown shows that the Blackhawks have taken 53 percent of the game's total shots when trailing by one, and the Bruins have generated almost 48 percent of the game's total shots when leading by one. Should those trends continue, the edge goes to Chicago. When the Blackhawks have trailed by two, they have led a very aggressive attack to try to cut the lead, generating 56 percent of the game's total shots. When Boston has led by two, they have taken over 53 percent of the game's total shots. In that situation, the possession edge goes to Chicago as well.
Now, when the Blackhawks have led by one, they have generated 48 percent of the total shot. The Bruins on the other hand, account for 64 percent of total shots in the same situation, giving them a heavy situational possession advantage in that department. While Chicago has done a great job of keeping its foot on the gas with a two-goal lead by taking over 60 percent of the shots in the process, Boston has led all-out attacks when down by two, generating over 82 percent of the game's total shots in that situation, a clear possession edge for the Bruins.
The Blackhawks are a stronger home team in the playoffs than they are on the road, and that will be very important for them since they will have home ice advantage in this series. They are 9-1 at home, and that is due in large part to directing over 56 percent of the game's total shots at even strength when the score is within two goals. The Blackhawks are 3-4 on the road, however, and have not controlled the puck as much on the road as they have at home in generating just under 49 percent of the game's total shots.
Tuukka Rask stonewalled the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference Finals. (Cody Smith Foto/Creative Commons)
Tuukka Rask stonewalled the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference Finals. (Cody Smith Foto/Creative Commons)
In the playoffs, the Bruins have generated over 53 percent of the game's total shots while playing on the road, and as a result, they are 5-2 away from TD Garden. That is particularly interesting because home teams have the advantage of changing their lines after the road team has, in order to get a more favorable matchup. Despite that, the Bruins are outpossessing their opponents. As illustrated earlier, the Blackhawks are going to be the toughest home team the Bruins have faced the entire postseason, and the series will hinge largely on who wins the possession battle at United Center. The Bruins have the edge in possession at TD Garden, as they take almost 53 percent of the game's total shots at home. Combine that with the Blackhawks' 49 percent road possession rate, and therein lies a  potentially decisive advantage for the Bruins, one that will make it very important for them to win at least one game at United Center to begin this series. 
Both of these teams are very hard-working and talented, and whoever wins the puck possession matchup will likely win the series. The Blackhawks took down arguably the hottest goaltender in the playoffs in Jonathan Quick, and they will have to do it again with Tuukka Rask. Chicago has the talent and the work ethic to do what it takes to defeat Boston, and the Blackhawks will hoist the Stanley Cup when this is all over.
Prediction: Chicago in 6
You can reach Staff Writer Graham Jenkins here, or follow him on Twitter.



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