Chicago goalie Corey Crawford is sure to see plenty of Bruins driving to his net. (Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images)
By Allan Muir
For more Hawks-Bruins preview content, check out our staff predictions, Michael Farber’s take, Allan Muir’s tactical breakdown, Stu Hackel’s series storylines, Richard Deitsch’s TV media guide, iconic Blackhawks photos, iconic Bruins photos and a look at how the two teams were built.
Two great teams. Two great markets. If anything could finally wash away the aftertaste of the lockout that nearly torpedoed the season, a Stanley Cup Final clash between the Chicago Blackhawks and Boston Bruins is it.
Chicago comes into the series as the obvious favorite. The NHL’s best team during the regular campaign, the Blackhawks finished 15 points ahead of Boston in the overall league standings while putting together a season for the ages. They’ve extended their strong play into the postseason, going 12-6, and are coming into the Stanley Cup Final on a 7-1 roll after having eliminated the defending champion Los Angeles Kings in five games.
The Bruins, meanwhile, are proving to be a tough out in the playoffs, having won seven of their last eight series — the one they lost came in overtime of Game 7 against the Capitals last year. They’re on a roll, too, at 9-1 in their last 10 games after sweeping Pittsburgh, the Eastern Conference’s top seed.
The similarities don’t stop there. Both teams survived a brush with adversity that required an overtime win in Game 7 to advance. Both are getting elite goaltending, strong five-on-five play and scoring from across their rosters.
Expect a series that’s low on scoring but high on tension and goes the full seven games.
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The Bruins’ strength is the ability to overwhelm the opponent in the neutral zone, turn the puck over and attack with numbers. The one game the Kings won in their series against the Hawks was predicated on their control of the neutral zone. You can do the math. If Boston is able to exert its will in the middle, the Hawks will be in trouble.
Boston needs to win at least one game in Chicago to capture the Cup, and that sets up the real challenge of the series. The Hawks are 9-1 at the United Center during the playoffs, scoring 3.3 goals while allowing just 1.7. The Bruins are 5-2 on the road, scoring 3.43 goals and giving up 1.86. Holding serve at home is critical for Chicago.