Now that the smoke has cleared and the shortened season has run it’s course only the Boston Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks remain standing in an attempt to claim Lord Stanley’s Cup. Both teams match up well and appear to be at the top of their game which is why the difference in the series will depend on who’s goaltender can be better than the other.
The Bruins Tuukka Rask will square off against Chicago’s Corey Crawford. Both goalies will be starting their first Stanley Cup Final game. Their stats for the 2013 playoffs are practically identical. Rask has a save percentage of .943 with a goals against average of 1.75 and 12 wins whereas Crawford has a .935 save percentage and 1.74 goals against for his 12 wins. Rask has a slight edge in shutouts having posted two in the conference finals to Crawford’s one in the quarterfinals. This should come as no surprise as both players have been instrumental in leading their teams to the cup finals.
Both teams have had to overcome some adversity in the playoffs to get where they are. Boston nearly blew a 3-1 series lead in the first round against Toronto before overcoming a a three goal deficit in the third period of game seven to complete an historic comeback. Chicago’s path was no walk in the park either as they were able to fight back from a 3-1 series deficit to beat the Detroit Red Wings in the semifinals. Both teams have made it clear that lack of heart and determination will not be the deciding factor in this series.
Considering the fact that Boston and Chicago have not played each other since October 2011 whichever team can establish their style of play will gain an early advantage in the series. Both teams play a very similar style of hockey in that they use a stifling defense to create break out opportunities and set up in the offensive zone.
“The transition game is extremely good because of their back end and how they move that puck quickly, so you’ve got to respect that part of it, there’s no doubt. They built their team that way, and they’ve had success that way,” said Bruins coach Claude Julien.
While both teams are deep, the Blackhawks rely pretty heavily on their stars Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp, Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa to produce points. Boston was able to shut down Pittsburgh’s star trio of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang but Chicago’s scorers are much more suited to the physical style of Bruins play than the Penguins forwards were.
While the defense and Tuukka Rask are trying to stifle Chicago’s top scorers, the Bruins forwards will have their hands full trying to solve Corey Crawford. Crawford has allowed two or fewer goals in 12 games this postseason.
“Obviously he’s a good goaltender,” David Krejci said of Corey Crawford, “He had a pretty good season and a good playoff as well. We’ve got to get on him early, get some traffic, and if he doesn’t see the puck, he can’t stop it. That’s what we’ve got to do.”
Both teams have raised the Stanley Cup in the past three seasons, who will hoist it for a second time now rests on the shoulders of two players who are starting the biggest series of their careers.