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After what I think we could all agree was a crazy Round 3 we have the Chicago Blackhawks and Boston Bruins facing off in the 2013 Stanley Cup Final.
Chicago Blackhawks (1st in West) vs Boston Bruins (4th in East)
Game 1: Thursday 13/6 @ 10am Australian EST.
After dodging a bullet in Round 2 against the Red Wings the Blackhawks looked much more confident in their 4-1 series victory over the LA Kings in Round 3. After getting out to a 2-0 lead at home, the Blackhawks only loss against the Kings came in their first away game. The series was wrapped up in second overtime during Game 5, Chicago victorious 4-3.
The final game saw an outstanding performance from forward Patrick Kane, who scored a hat trick on the night that included the OT winner. Kane had been criticized previously for his lack of offensive production in the playoffs, his last two games has featured two of his six goals these playoffs.
If the Blackhawks won their series comfortably -- with a few close calls, granted -- then the Bruins absolutely dominated their Round 3 series against the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Penguins were largely considered to the be favorites to win the Cup, and after a good offensive showing against the Senators in Round 2 appeared to be back to their regular season form. However an incredibly physical performance from the Bruins and an solid performance from their goalie Tuukka Rask saw the high-powered Penguins offence effectively neutered, leading to a 4-0 sweep.
In a series we knew would be a battle between a top tier offence and a top tier defense it was the Bruins D that got the better of it. How dominant was the Boston defense? Penguins star Sidney Crosby had zero points the entire series.
Expect the Blackhawks play strong during their first two home games, Chicago is 9-1 during the 2013 playoffs at home. While they are riding hot right now, both teams came close to elimination throughout the postseason. The Bruins clawed their way back in a Game 7 victory in Round 1, while the Blackhawks were down 3-1 in their Round 2 series against the Red Wings.
Expect the Bruins to lean heavily on forward David Krejci, aside from my comments regarding Boston as a defensive side, Krejci is the leading points scorer this postseason. Coupled with defenseman Torey Krug, a weapon during power plays, he may have been quiet on offence during their series against the Penguins, but his work alongside Zdeno Chara shut that high-powered offence down. They'll be expected to do the same against the Blackhawks' Marian Hossa, Patrick Kane and Bryan Bickell.
The Blackhawks will hope goalie Corey Crawford continues his breakout performance and will look to Brent Seabrook to remain one of their most consistent performers on defense. The return to form from Patrick Kane, mentioned above, couldn't have come at a better time for them.
Chicago will need to make use of their superior speed to beat a physical Boston side. Expect the Bruins to be as stingy as possible on defense and try and make the most out of every offensive opportunity.
I believe the Bruins will win the series in six games. They're just too hot right now.
Stanley Cup Playoffs Round 3 Highlights
Patrick Kane's hat trick against the Penguins.
Tuukka Rask's nice glove save after crazy final minute of Game 4.