5 Bold Predictions for Stanley Cup Finals

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5 Bold Predictions for the 2013 Stanley Cup Finals

Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports

And then there were two. After a condensed 48-game schedule and three grueling rounds in the playoffs, the NHL Stanley Cup Finals are finally here. Game 1 begins on Wednesday night in Chicago as the Chicago Blackhawks host the Boston Bruins.

Both teams are coming off surprising Conference Finals appearances. The Blackhawks took care of the defending Stanley Cup Champions in five games while Boston beat the high-powered Pittsburgh Penguins in four straight games. Neither team is a stranger to the Finals. Boston won the Cup two years ago while Chicago won it the year before.

All year long, Chicago has been the best team in Hockey. After getting off to the best start in NHL history, they cruised into the playoffs. Once they got to the post season, the only scare they had was against the Detroit Red Wings. The Red Wings took them to seven games but the Hawks only needed five to dismantle the Minnesota Wild and the Kings.

Boston is a different story, however. They finished fourth in the Eastern Conference and 10 points behind Pittsburgh. Needing seven games to get past the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round, they have only lost one game since, defeating the New York Rangers in five and sweeping Pittsburgh.

With both teams eager to hoist Lord Stanley's Cup, there are so many different angles and storylines to discuss. Who has the best goalie? Which coach will be the deciding factor? Will the power play be the deciding factor? With so many burning questions going into the Finals, here are five bold predictions.

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1. Tuukka Rask will win the Conn Smythe Trophy

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Rask has been unbelievable in the playoffs. Look no further than the Eastern Conference Finals to see what I mean. Against the Pittsburgh Penguins' high-scoring attack of Sydney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and James Neal, Rask only allowed two goals in the four-game sweep. Look for him to capture the trophy for the Most Valuable Player in the Playoffs.

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2. Home ice will not matter

Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports

When playing during the regular season, one of the things you play for is the ability to have home ice advantage during the post season. Chicago earned that right with the remarkable season they had. Boston, on the other hand, proved against Pittsburgh that they don't care about playing on the road. Chicago will need to hold serve on their own ice but I don't think it's going to matter one way or the other.

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3. Jaromir Jagr will have an impact on the Finals

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After acquiring Jagr from the Dallas Stars at the trade deadline, Boston didn't quite know what to expect. He had 35 points during the regular season and seven during the playoffs. Look for Jagr to have an offensive impact on the series.

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4. Corey Crawford will be the reason Chicago wins at least 1 game

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Much like he did against the Detroit Red Wings when their backs were against the wall, Crawford will put his team on his back at least once and carry them to a victory. He has proven throughout the playoffs that he has the ability to do it and I look for him to earn Chicago at least once victory as he out-duels Rask.

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5. Boston Wins the Stanley Cup in 7 Games

Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

This was the most difficult prediction. Chicago has been the best team all year long, but Rask has been the best player during the playoffs. Shutting out the Penguins twice and only allowing one goal each in the other two games is extremely impressive. Rask will continue to be hot and Boston will get enough help offensively to get past the Hawks.