5 Questions Chicago Blackhawks Must Answer If They Expect to Win Stanley Cup
2013 Stanley Cup Finals: 5 Questions the Chicago Blackhawks Must Answer
The Chicago Blackhawks and Boston Bruins will square off in the 2013 Stanley Cup Finals, beginning with Game 1 in Chicago on Wednesday. Both teams have had very good seasons and aside from the regular season, took similar paths to get here. The Blackhawks had an incredible regular season record of 36-7-5, which was the best record in the NHL and while they did struggle against the Detroit Red Wings, they steamrolled the Los Angeles Kings in the Western Conference Finals. Boston finished with a regular season record of 28-14-6 and made the playoffs as the no. 4 seed out of the East. The Bruins struggled with the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round before rolling both the New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins. Both teams are on a roll right now and it should be a very intriguing series.
These two teams match up very interestingly. Boston is a tough physical team that likes to beat you up in the middle. The Bruins will look to clog up the neutral zone, not allowing the Chicago skill players get loose. While Chicago is not afraid to get tough, the Blackhawks are playing their best when their skill players are flying around the ice, using great passes to set up a lot of shots. Basically, we have two completely different playing styles, it will be very interesting to see which team will be able to play their own game.
I think that the Blackhawks are the favorites in this series. Not only did they have the best regular-season record, they are 7-1 in their last eight games, including taking down the defending champion Kings in five games. That being said, Boston is 9-1 in their last 10 games, including a four-game sweep of the Penguins, who were the top seed in the Eastern Conference. While these two teams play a different style of hockey, they are similar in some ways. Both have rode elite goaltenders to the finals and are receiving scoring from up and down the roster.
I think it is safe to say that this will be a close series. If the Blackhawks expect to win, they have to continue to play well and clean up some of the areas of their game that they have been lacking. Here are five questions that the Blackhawks must answer if they want to hoist Lord Stanley's Cup.
Can Chicago Deal with the Physical Play of the Bruins?
The Bruins are going to look to beat up the skill players of the Blackhawks. The Boston defense, led by 6-foot-9 monster Zdeno Chara, will take every opportunity that they can get to be physical with the Blackhawks forwards, most notably Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews. The Blackhawks must be able to take these hits without retaliating and receiving stupid penalties.
Can the Blackhawks Solve Boston Goalie Tuukka Rask?
Boston goaltender Tuukka Rask has been incredible this post-season. He has a .943 save percentage and a 1.75 goals against average. If he can keep this up, it is going to definitely make things tough on Chicago. If any team can solve the puzzle that is Rask, it is the Blackhawks. They have won back-to-back series against Jimmy Howard and Jonathan Quick. Chicago made Quick, who many consider the best goalie in the league, look foolish at times.
Will the Blackhawks Improve Their Power Play?
Neither the Blackhawks nor Bruins have been very good when it comes to the power play this season. The Blackhawks just seem to be too timid when they have the man advantage. Obviously, you want to see them taking good shots, but I would simply like to see more shots on goal when the Blackhawks have a power play. If the Blackhawks are able to take advantage of their power play opportunities, I think it will make the Bruins a little less aggressive defensively. If the Blackhawks are scoring power play goals, the Bruins will not be as willing to play physically because they will be worried about penalties.
Can Chicago Win More Face-Offs?
When it comes to face-offs, the Blackhawks have been awful this post-season, winning only 47 percent of them. This ranks them 14th out of the 16 playoff teams. Boston on the other hand has been incredible, leading the league by winning 56 percent of their face-offs. It is hard to see the Blackhawks winning a majority of the face-offs in this series, but they need to at least make it close. If Boston completely dominates the face-off game, it will be a tough uphill battle for Chicago.
Will Corey Crawford Prove That He is an Elite Goaltender?
Corey Crawford has also been great this post-season. Posting a .935 save percentage and only allowing a 1.74 goals against average. If the Blackhawks expect to win this series, Crawford has to continue to play at an elite level. There have been some doubts in the past, and if Crawford wants to quiet his critics once and for all, now would be a good time. As long as he plays well and the Blackhawks win the Cup, I think Crawford takes home the Conn Smythe Trophy for the Most Valuable Player throughout the playoffs. Crawford is arguably the biggest key for victory for the Blackhawks.
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