June 12, 2013
Stanley Cup Final Prediction
In terms of series predictions I have an unusually impressive record, if I may say so myself, of 10 for 14 this post-season. And I may - must - say so myself because, trust me, this does not happen that often so I must say it when I do get so lucky!
There is one series left. The Stanley Cup Final, of course. And I must say this is easily the toughestest series for me to get a feel for.
Maybe that's because it should be that way. After all, the top two teams in the league, presumably, are about to face-off. Maybe that's because this will be the first match between an Eastern Conference and Western Conference team in a calendar year. Maybe its because these two teams have very different approaches.
Chicago has been the class of the league all season. The President's Trophy champions only lost 7 games in the regular season, and have been the favorite to win the Cup all along. They have superior offensive weapons. But they can also play it down and dirty if you want. And you know Boston wants.
Boston is about defense, goaltending and intimidation. They will suffocate the opponent's top shooters while pressuring and pounding the blue line into making mistakes. And they will punishing you physically, not afraid to ignore the rule book knowing full well the referees will only call so much. In other words, the Bruins know they will get away with an awful lot. They also know, first-hand from two years ago, the refereeing standard drops even lower in the final round.
I really would like to see Chicago win. They play a high offense, highly entertaining game first and foremost. That is the trend I would like to see hockey go back to. With poor enforcement of the rules by the NHL we have seen the game take steps backwards the last couple of years.
I'd also like to see Chicago win for the owner's sake. That is the very first time I've ever said that, I'm certain. But Rocky Wirtz has done a good job reviving a great franchise. They exude relevancy not only in the hockey world but in the crammed Chicago sports market. They have reconnected with the fans, the community and their history. They deserve some good karma.
Boston's owner, on the other hand, just down right annoys me. Jeremy Jacobs is the perhaps most powerful owner in the business. As such, he is the lead puppeteer behind the lockouts. Gary Bettman is the puppet who takes the heat, but it is the guys like Jacobs who keep shutting the league down and screwing over the fans for financial gain. I suspect he's pulling a few more NHL front office strings than we will ever realize, too.
All that being said, I am going to predict Boston to win the Stanley Cup. Mostly because Boston has superior defense. Notice I didn't say goaltending, though the general consensus is they do, too. I'm willing to give Chicago's Corey Crawford the benefit of the doubt and say all is pretty much equal there, too. But at the end of the day, Boston's defense is better, and, as they always say, defense wins championships.
I also think Boston will take advantage of the frustrating officiating standard that plagues the league. And hey, more power to them. It is obviously effective.
I think the key to the series will be Boston's physical forecheck vs. Chicago's mobile defensemen. Chicago's swift skating rearguards can be game-breakers on any given night. But Detroit showed us the Blackhawks "D" can also be vulnerable to heavy physical play and make mistakes. Can Boston break down Chicago's breakout, or will the Hawks exploit the Bruins with quick puck movement, perhaps utilizing the middle of the ice more?
So I, with no real confidence in my pick, will take Boston to win the Stanley Cup. I hope I'm wrong. I really do think Chicago is the best team in the league in 2013.
But, as I have learned over the years, the best team does not always win.