NHL

McKeen’s fantasy writers Peter Harling and Carl Lemelin weigh in on the Stanley Cup Finals.

My own view is that Boston will win the series in six games. Let’s see what Peter and Carl think.

Gus

Peter Harling

After the Hawks dethroned the Kings, and the Bruins say ‘in your face’ Iginla to the Pens, we are left with two teams. It’s not unbelievable that it is a Boston-Chicago Stanley Cup final. What is shocking is how swiftly the third round ended.  The conference finals featured the four previous Cup winners, and the finals now have the opportunity to possibly establish the foundation of a new dynasty. Both teams are recent champions.

The Chicago Blackhawks burst out of the gate during the regular season with a record setting consecutive winning streak. After a close call in their series with the Red Wings they seem to have found their stride. Offensive stars Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews have been criticized for their lack of offense, but they found it when it counted, in the game to punch their ticket to the finals.

The Boston Bruins also dodged a bullet after they were nearly eliminated in the first round. Since that scare it is safe to say the sleeping bear has awakened. Boston managed to dispatch both the Rangers and the mighty Penguins, seemingly with ease! The Bruins were able to sweep Pittsburgh allowing only two goals in four short games.

The playoffs are all about momentum.  Both teams enter the finals with some and lots of confidence. It will be interesting to see who can claim it in the first game, and if they can hold on to it.

Because of the short season, these teams did not meet during the regular season but it should take little time for the series to heat up and get a little nasty.

The Bruins special teams are going to be a factor. Their powerplay is not very good. No goals in the series against Pittsburgh. However, their penalty kill is excellent. They shut out the powerful Pittsburgh powerplay. Both teams have a Norris Trophy stud anchoring the defense and both teams boast depth on all four forward lines. Goaltending on both teams has been solid and this series has seven games written all over it.

A Stanley Cup final game seven overtime is the stuff of dreams. We all scored that goal on our driveway and backyard rinks thousands of times. Few ever get the chance to live it. Someone will score the Cup winning goal in this series. Who wins this series is anyone’s guess, but one thing for sure is it will be one for the ages.

Bruins in 6.

Carl Lemelin:

The fact that these two finalists lost one game combined during the semi-finals proves beyond any doubt that they are clearly this year’s best.  This makes it all the more challenging to pick a Cup winner, following a shortened season that excluded West vs. East match-ups?

The pace of play in the West has been higher than in the East this post-season.  Western teams as a group have also played a more structured game this spring than their Eastern counterparts.  This could favor the Blackhawks as they should be more prepared for the frenetic pace this Final should feature.

Both have faced major adversity and have come out stronger for it.  The Hawks came back from a 1-3 deficit in the Detroit series and who could forget Toronto’s total collapse against the resilient Bruins in that fateful Game 7 in Round 1 when Boston, trailing 1-4 in the third period, came all the way back to win it on Patrice Bergeron’s OT winner.

Special teams are usually a key factor in analyzing playoff match-ups, but the stats point to this series being decided mostly on the teams’ 5-on-5 play.  Both teams have had their issues on the PP all season long and both are great on the PK, so don’t expect too many PP goals.  The Bruins are the best 5-on-5 team in the Playoffs and the Hawks were number one during the regular season.

This leads us straight to the contentious issue of refereeing: since both teams should be unafraid to take penalties, the outcome of this series may very well hinge on the way games are called.  The Hawks have more speed and top-end skill than the Bruins.  No one in Black-and-Gold can match Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa or Duncan Keith in what they can accomplish with limited time and space.  However, as we discovered back in the 2011 Final, when the Bruins are allowed to play mind games with the opposition’s top players and water-ski hooked to their backs (i.e. the Sedin twins), they will walk away with the big trophy.  But this year’s men in stripes have been so unpredictable that we have no clue what to expect.

The edge in goal goes to Boston’s Tuukka Rask and his ridiculous .943 save percentage.  Even if it is an imperfect stat, he did accomplish the feat facing such high-octane attacks as the Leafs’ and Penguins’.  Corey Crawford has been no slouch of course with a solid .935, good for second place this post-season.

As deep as the Bruins are at forward and as good as Zdeno Chara is at times shutting down teams almost on his own, we will suppose that recent public outcry will influence the zebras into calling it by the book.  If so, the early ‘feeling-out’ process that we expect Boston to employ might just land them in the penalty box more often than they bargained for.  This would give Chicago’s elite squad just enough room, handing them the slight edge needed to lift the Cup two weeks from now.

Blackhawks in 7.

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