Well that was a fairly disappointing Conference Finals round, wasn’t it? I was personally hoping for one of the most entertaining rounds in recent memory, but instead was treated to two relatively easy series victories for the Bruins and Blackhawks. Sure, both matchups featured some very interesting and entertaining games, but overall it was a major disappointment that didn’t come close to living up to the hype. Oh well.
My overall playoff series predictions now stand at 11 for 14. Not bad, better than 75%, but I wish I hadn’t underrated Boston so much, as picking against them has accounted for 2 of my 3 mistakes. Do I stick with my gut and pick against them for the third time? Read on to find out that and more!
Boston thoroughly dominated the Penguins during the opening two games of the series and followed that up by doing just enough to win two more and complete the sweep. Sure, the Penguins sucked ass, were coached horrendously, and largely have themselves to blame for not at least winning a game or two, but the Bruins certainly played an amazing series and came out on top due to a numbers of factors.
Tuukka Rask played lights out every single game. Boston’s penalty killing units were sensational, not allowing the Penguins a single power play goal all series. Claude Julien made Dan Bylsma look like the amateur, garbage-tier coach that he is. Zdeno Chara was a physically dominating force that rendered Pittsburgh’s stars obsolete. Basically everything came together for Boston at the right time.
They have the capability of doing the exact same thing against the Blackhawks, especially when you consider that the Blackhawks aren’t as offensively deep as the Penguins were and their high-end offensive stars are probably a little easier to push around than Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. However, Chicago has a much better arsenal behind its offense than Pittsburgh.
Boston will need to overcome Chicago’s much tighter defensive game and better overall defensemen, as well as deal with Corey Crawford, the only goaltender in the playoffs performing close to Rask’s level. Then there’s Joel Quenneville, a coach that won’t be as easily confused as Bylsma was. Finally, the Bruins are once again the underdogs and do not have the luxury of home ice advantage, but that didn’t even phase them against Pittsburgh, so maybe it’s not even worth pointing out.
The Blackhawks didn’t have too much trouble with the defending Stanley Cup champion Kings, losing only one game and sticking with their overall game plan to win close, hard-fought battles. Los Angeles played well and gave it all they could, but they simply couldn’t match the depth and skill of Chicago.
Chicago received great offensive contributions from their role players, such as Bryan Bickell and Michal Handzus, while also getting output from their stars when needed, such as Patrick Kane stepping up with a hat trick in Game 5, including the overtime winner. Crawford provided solid to excellent goaltending throughout the series and the defense stepped up big time, especially in Game 4 when they were missing Duncan Keith.
Having already defeated the Kings, a team with a similar makeup to that of the Bruins, the Blackhawks should be more than capable of coming out on top in the finals as well. They’ve already beaten a world class goaltender, an excellent, tough, physical defense, and an experience laden lineup. However, the Bruins will bring a few new challenges to the table.
Boston has way more offensive depth than any other team Chicago has faced to this point, capable of rolling four lines on a regular basis and getting goal scoring from any of them. Chicago will need to find a way of dealing with this if they hope to continue scrapping out wins. Then there’s Chara, a one-man wrecking crew that will do everything in his power to eliminate the effectiveness of Chicago’s stars. Having Bickell playing at such a high level may come in especially handy here.
I really, really hope we’re in for something special here and that both teams play at their best, giving us the fans one hell of a series. On paper it’s a heck of a matchup, with neither team having much of an edge in any area. They’ve both had amazing penalty kills, underwhelming power plays, offense from all corners of their lineups, superb defense, and excellent goaltending. That being said, I believe Boston has the edge in goaltending and more often than not that’s what it all boils down to in the finals.
Bruins in 7.