Editor’s Note: “Jane, you ignorant slut.” The point-counterpoint format worked so well the last time, we invited the last two men standing to go a round: Mike Shoro repping the Hawks and Eddie for the Bruins. Eddie, who wears a second hat here as our consiglierei, banged out the text and it somehow found its way into Shoro’s hands (blame the NSA) and he did his some [bracketed] edits. Ladies and gentlemen and hockey obsessives of all ages, we give you the dream team, our very own glimmer twins and the two lucky bastards who still have teams playing hockey…
So here we are. Original Six Stanley Cup Final. Two out of the last three champions. The two teams that make Canucks fans shed bitter tears whenever said championships are mentioned [important]. Saint Patrice versus Captain Grumpy Cat (or, wait, Captain Serious. Whatever. Dude looks like Grumpy Cat. And if his whining and tantrum throwing in the playoffs so far is any indication, basically is Grumpy Cat) [Grumpy Cat. Wow. A meme. We are so topical here. I’m glad we are mentioning memes. This will surely get him. Sick burn, dude.]. The Blackhawks were utterly amazing in the regular season and, following a slight hiccup in the first round vs Toronto, the Bruins have looked unbeatable in the last two rounds of the playoffs.
These two teams very much deserve to be squaring off for the Cup. Ultimately, this starts in goal. Corey Crawford got very little respect going into the post-season, despite he and Ray Emery (lol) somehow winning the Jennings Trophy for the goaltenders on the team with the lowest GAA in the regular season. The assumption was that he’s pretty much Chris Osgood; competent but unspectacular goalie made to look good by the team in front of him.
That may be the case, but if so, he’s doing a damn good Chris Osgood impression – putting up really solid numbers and backstopping his team to the Final [Chris Osgood? LOL Oh honey, please. Let’s cut the crap. He’s as much Chris Osgood as I am.]. Rask, too, has had his share of detractors, particularly the idiot cadre in the hockey media who decided he was a “non clutch” goalie who couldn’t win elimination games. Tell that to the Penguins. As it is, the two goalies in the Final have both the best two GAAs (Crawford first, Rask second) and SV% (Rask first, Crawford second). [While it’s somewhat close, I still think Rask is the better of the two goalies. His .950 even strength save % is much better than Crawford’s .928]
Things might look pretty even in net, but I think the Bruins clearly have the edge on the blueline. In general, the D corps match up pretty evenly. Both have a rock solid #2 D-man who can’t quite anchor a top pair by himself (Seidenberg and Seabrook), seasoned veterans who are usually solid but prone to the occasional terrifying lapse (Ference and Oduya), inexperienced young D on the bottom pair with a bit of offensive flair (Krug and Leddy), cuties with receding hairlines (Boychuk and Hjalmarsson) and, um, well Adam McQuaid likes to punch people and Michal Rozsival is old (the parallels fall down a little there).
The big difference is in each team’s franchise blueliner. Don’t get me wrong, Duncan Keith is an amazing player, and I’d take him on my team any day, but Chara is simply and consistently one of the best D-men in the league every single year (plus Keith baseball bats people in the face when he’s pissed. Classy stuff) [Oh man, you’re killing me. A Boston Bruins fan lecturing me on “class”. That’s rich.]. Yes, the Hawks have faced great players like Suter, Boyle [WTF?], and Doughty these playoffs, but none of them has the sort of defensive presence that Chara brings.
The combination of Rask, Chara, and Bergeron completely eliminated the Penguins’ much vaunted offensive threat for the entire Eastern Conference Finals. [Chara is far and away the best blueliner on either team, but I don’t think he gives the Bruin a “clear” edge over the Blackhawks on the blue line. Just as the Bruins have relied heavily on their D throughout the year, so have the Blackhawks. Crawford and Emery didn’t win the Jennings just because they played well. I’d say it’s pretty much a wash. And Boychuk is not hot, don’t give me that crap.]
That mention of Bergeron brings us to the forward matchups. Here, there’s a legitimate argument that Chicago has an edge over the B’s. 3 of their 4 top wingers are amazingly good, and the fourth is having a flukey playoff goalscoring run which is going to hilariously inflate his UFA contract this summer (hi, Bryan Bickell). [I’m going to laugh until the end of time when Calgary outbids Buffalo for him with a 5 year $30 million contract] They have the excellent Jonathan Toews centering their first line. That is genuinely intimidating. But at the same time, their second line centre is Michal Handzus, of all people. Their attempt at a Brad Marchand-style pest is Dave Bolland, who this season has been objectively terrible at hockey. [It’s funny how Dave Bolland was the original Brad Marchand and now Brad Marchand is a better Dave Bolland than Dave Bolland is.]
The Bruins, on the other hand, don’t have anyone with the consistently strong career scoring numbers of a Hossa or a Kane, but they do have the two leading scorers of this year’s playoffs: Nathan Horton and David Krecji. Add in a suddenly very dangerous looking Milan Lucic and you have a top line that is the equal of the Blackhawks. Patrice Bergeron matches up very well with Toews as one of the best all-round forwards in the league, in fact he’s probably better. [Let’s not say what we know are inherent lies, ok? Give me a freakin’ break.] Plus the Bruins centre depth is better than the Hawks (Chris Kelly as 4th line centre is impressive). [Center depth, yeah. Handzus has been pretty meh although he has come up big when you’d least expect it]. That said, Hawks wingers probably shade the Bruins, so I’d call the forwards a wash. [As of right now, I’d say that’s fair. If Toews gets things going, however, I’d have to give Chicago the edge, even if Seguin ever decides to show up.]
Special teams are also a wash, in a rather depressing sense. Both teams have managed only seven powerplay goals each in the playoffs, and both had thoroughly meh powerplay records in the regular season. On the penalty kill, however, both have been beasts. Chicago is killing a ridiculous 94.8% of the penalties they take and, while not as impressive, the Bruins are at a very solid 86.5%. [Which is too bad since the Hawks will spend about 10 minutes on the PP each game thanks to Boston gooning it up.] End result? Expect more shorties than PP goals.
So where does this leave us? Two good teams, pretty evenly matched, possibly an edge to the Bruins at the back and maybe the Blackhawks up front. Unlikely to see many PP goals. Are we in for series of 1-0 or 2-1 slugfests? Somehow I don’t think so. Rask is due an off night, and Crawford is due several. I wouldn’t be surprised to see something similar to the 2011 final, with the home team dominating, and the first team to manage an away win taking the Cup. [I’d probably agree with this.] Putting my money where my mouth is, I have to go with Bruins in 6. Wouldn’t be surprised if it went 7, or if Chicago squeaked out a win, but there’s just been something about the Bruins these last two rounds.
I think Lord Stanley is coming back to Boston. [I’m obviously going to disagree with this. As much as the Bruins scare me, I could never pick against the Blackhawks. Whichever team wins game one, which I think the Blackhawks will do because fuck Boston.]