Chicago vs. Boston
Season series: Did not meet.
Difference-makers: Chicago RW Patrick Kane scored four goals in the final two games of the Western Conference final against Los Angeles after failing to get any in previous seven games and just four in his previous 29 in the playoffs. If he has found his touch, the challenge of containing the Blackhawks' volatile offense will get even tougher for Boston. Goaltending is the key variable in any series, and Corey Crawford has performed well for Chicago, putting up a league-best 1.74 goals-against average to go with a .935 save percentage. Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask has equally dazzling numbers -- a 1.75 goals-against average and .943 save percentage -- and was brilliant in the Eastern Conference final. He was the primary reason the Penguins, who entered the series averaging 4.27 goals per game, scored just twice in four games. Bruins RW Nathan Horton, just a few weeks shy of unrestricted free agency, is the No. 2 scorer in the playoffs, with seven goals -- three of them winners -- and 10 assists. He also leads the playoffs with a plus-minus rating of plus-21, the NHL's best since 1985.
Special teams: Chicago's power play is surprisingly ineffective, considering its offensive talent, scoring on just 13.7 percent of its opportunities over the first three rounds. Its penalty-killing, however, has been brilliant, giving up only three goals in 58 short-handed situations, a 94.8 percent success rate. Boston's power play also is ordinary, converting 15.6 percent of its chances after a 0-for-13 performance against the Penguins, but the Bruins' previously lackluster penalty-killing snuffed all 15 chances the Penguins had with the extra man. Losing Gregory Campbell, a capable penalty-killer whose right leg was broken when he blocked an Evgeni Malkin shot, could be a significant blow to the Bruins.
Noteworthy: This is the first Stanley Cup final between the Blackhawks and Bruins, and the first featuring two Original Six franchises since Montreal defeated the New York Rangers in 1979. ... Blackhawks won the Cup in 2010, the Bruins in 2011. ... Both teams are strong at even-strength. Boston is scoring 1.77 five-on-five goals for every one it allows, while Chicago is scoring 1.44. ... Six of Chicago RW Marian Hossa's seven playoff games have given the Blackhawks a lead. ... Boston has won nine of its past 10 games, the Blackhawks seven of their past eight. ... Chicago LW Bryan Bickell, who scored nine goals in 48 regular-season games, has eight in the playoffs. ... Bruins C David Krejci leads the playoffs in goals (nine) and points (21). ... Home teams have won 56 of the 80 games in these playoffs, one shy of the league record set in 1991. ... Chicago captain Jonathan Toews, one of hockey's finest two-way forwards, has one goal on 51 shots in the playoffs, and Bruins RW Jaromir Jagr none on 45. Chicago LW Brandon Saad, a rookie of the year candidate from Gibsonia, hasn't scored yet, either. ... Defensemen have produced 15 of Boston's 50 goals, including five by Johnny Boychuk. ... The Blackhawks are 9-1 at home and 6-1 in one-goal games; Boston is 7-2 and 6-3. ... The Bruins did not trail at any point in the Eastern Conference final against the Penguins and gave up just one goal over the final 106 minutes, 28 seconds. ... Chicago and Boston haven't played since Oct. 15, 2011, a 3-2 shootout victory for the Bruins.
Who will win: Blackhawks in seven. If this series lives up to its promise, it won't be decided until quadruple-overtime of Game 7. At the earliest.
First Published June 12, 2013 4:00 AM