The Stanley Cup finals are upon us, and the field has been narrowed down to the Chicago Blackhawks and the Boston Bruins. The HabsWorld staff have jotted down their final predictions for this season’s playoffs.
Brian La Rose predicts: Chicago in 7
Matt Gauthier predicts: Boston in 5
Moshé Weizman predicts: Chicago in 6
Alex Létourneau predicts: Boston in 6
Norm Szcyrek predicts: Boston in 7
(Brian) It’s amazing to think that just a month ago, the Bruins were on the verge of blowing a 3-1 series lead and losing in the opening round. Instead, after sweeping the conference winners, they find themselves the consensus pick to win the Cup. They have every reason to be as well, Tuukka Rask turned in one of the best playoff rounds in NHL history (only two GA), the Lucic-Krejci-Horton line continues to dominate, and the battered defence corps neutralized all of the Penguins’ top threats. Having this much time off also allows some of the banged up blueliners to get some extra time to get healthy. The secondary scoring still isn’t clicking but if they can get it going too, they’ll be even tougher to stop.
Despite all that, I’m still leaning towards Chicago here. One area that Boston struggles with is stopping teams with speed – we saw it during the regular season matchups with the Habs while Toronto’s team speed caused them fits as well. New York and Pittsburgh didn’t have quality team speed but the Blackhawks do. I also like Chicago’s blueline a lot more than Pittsburgh’s so Boston shouldn’t have as many quality scoring chances. I trust that the likes of Kane, Toews, Sharp, and Hossa will also be able to do what Crosby, Malkin, etc, couldn’t – score a goal. I also expect Rask to regress (I can’t see him playing another round like he did against Pittsburgh) which will hurt Boston.
That all said, this should a close and long series.
(Matt) The way the Bruins handled the Penguins, it’s hard to see how they can lose to any other team. If both the Bruins and Hawks share similarities, the Bruins clearly have the edge in my mind. They play an impressive team game, which is very cohesive and very effective. They play with a very high level of confidence in their abilities. On the other hands, the Hawks have been shaky during the playoffs, and we’ve seen “Captain confident” lose his focus and temper at times. It will be a mental game and Boston should prevail. I expect low scoring games with Bergeron notching a few big goals.
Conn Smythe prediction: Zdeno Chara
(Moshé) Having picked the Penguins to destroy the Bruins in 5, the Finals are a real puzzle. Both teams prove how big playoff experience is and how important it is to have a mature group of players together over a few playoff runs. Chicago’s simply doing what it is meant to do, like a first place team. Boston’s group however simply prove they’re good when it counts. I see the number 1 and 2 lines for the 2 teams making the difference; after stopping Malkin and Crosby, how will the Bruins handle Cane, Toews and Co. is the big question. I just can’t see anyone stopping Chicago, and I can’t help but pick Patrick Cane an eventual Conn Smyth winner and a big part in a 6 game Chicago win.
(Alex) I’ll be blunt, I have no idea what to expect. A team I thought was dead in the water after a mediocre series against Toronto decimated two teams that were picked by many as having championship pedigrees. Boston went through New York and Pittsburgh like a hot knife through butter. In hindsight, maybe New York wasn’t as bad as I thought. Maybe Boston is actually that good. Maybe even better. Tuuka Rask has taken his game to a level I didn’t think he was able of achieving. The aging, bruised Boston defense I called out last round? Yeah, ok, have another beer, pal. They allowed two goals in four games against the most horrifying offensive team assembled for these playoffs. This team actually looks better than they did when they won the cup two years ago. I’m still not sold on Chicago in these playoffs, which is kind of ridiculous considering they made the finals with relative ease. I didn’t think the Kings played the way they should’ve due to whatever reasons analysts can conjure. Personally, they looked tired to me. Corey Crawford is good but a goaltending duel with Rask is something he cannot win the way Rask has playing. Chicago’s getting a lot from their supporting cast but when that dries up, and it will, their snipers will have to be present, not periodically jumping in and out of games. Both teams are tough, both teams pack firepower, both have the ability to lock it up defensively, both have the goaltending and both have a championship in the last few years. The difference for me is Boston is playing the best hockey I’ve seen in a while, Chicago is not. Hurts me to say it, but, Boston fans will be unbearable after they hoist another cup.
Can a whole team win the Conn Smythe trophy? No? Give it to Rask. He’s been lights out and has bailed his boys out when they needed him most. No Rask, no cup. Simple as that. Tim who?
(Norm) I hate the Bruins. As a lifelong Habs fan, Boston represents the team’s biggest rivalry in the modern era of the NHL.
Their current team has enough players that are easy to dislike: Chara, Lucic, Thornton, Marchand. However, the team has
a number of players that are hard to root against: Bergeron, Kreji, Peverley and Seguin. Since their round one, epic game 7 victory, the Bruins have dominated
both teams in the second and third rounds. Chicago had a similar uphill battle in their second round 7 game comeback. They’ve
done well to get into the finals, but have not been as dominating. The Blackhawk’s style is more offensive, and the Bruins more defensive.
This will be a very, very close series. I’ll predict that the edge goes to the Bruins, but I’ll be rooting for the Hawks.
Conn Smythe prediction: Tuuka Rask.
Playoff Prediction Points – Round 3
Here are the tallys from the first three rounds. The point system awards one point for predicting a winner of a series and one extra point for picking the correct number of games.
Matt Gauthier [9 of 20]
Brian La Rose [10 of 24]
Jason Brisebois [10 of 24]
Alex Létourneau [7 of 24]
Norm Szcyrek [11 of 24]