For all the years that the Boston Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks franchises have been around, back to the good ol’ days of the Original Six, it’s amazing that this will be their first-ever Stanley Cup meeting. And though this season began amidst controversy with the lockout and CBA negotiations, it has become yet another exciting NHL season and should finish off with what promises to be a very exciting Cup finals.
Both of these teams have overcome a significant amount of adversity to get to this position. The Bruins were down 4-1 with 10 minutes left in Game 7 of their opening round series against the Toronto Maple Leafs, only to storm back and win that contest in overtime. It was a miraculous feat, one that surely won’t be duplicated anytime soon, but here the Bruins are, ready for yet another Cup run.
Chicago too faced some unexpected adversity in their second-round series against the rival Detroit Red Wings. They had fallen behind in the series 3 games to 1, only to buckle down and reel off three straight victories, including a Game 7 overtime, in order to get to this position. Both Chicago and Boston know what it takes to win a Cup, and are equally battle-tested which will provide for a long and even seven games of hockey over the next two weeks.
Game 1 gets underway Wednesday evening from the always raucous United Center in Chicago. The Hawks are amazing on home ice, and Boston knows if they are to win the Cup, they’ll have to get at least one game away from the TD Garden. Our official selection heading into this series is expect a long, hard-fought, bitterly played seven games. Both teams are very evenly matched and the will to win from both these groups will be extraordinary. Up front, the depth of Chicago combined with the Bruins losing Gregory Campbell gives the Blackhawks a decisive edge. But everywhere else, you need to favour the Bruins. Tuukka Rask has been amazing in goal, while Zdeno Chara is putting together quite the case for the Conn Smythe trophy. Ultimately I expect the gritty Bruins to prevail in this series. Their top-line of Milan Lucic, Nathan Horton, and David Krejci are truly in a zone right now, proving no match for any defenders in the league. On the back-end Rask will be great as usual, and the physicality of their blue-line will make things difficult for all of Chicago’s star power. It’s a series that could go either way, but we’re liking the Bruins in 7.
But first, the series must begin with the opening affair of Game 1. Both squads are well-rested featuring many players who have been in this situation before. While Game 1 is important, it’s not the be-all, end-all that many tend to make it out to be. That said, somebody’s got to win the game and that’s why we’re here to help you out in betting it. Bruins/Hawks, read on below for a featured selection and pick for Game 1. Our featured picks enter the Stanley Cup Finals 15-13 in the post-season and 49-36 overall.
Boston Bruins (+130) @ Chicago Blackhawks (-150)
Heading into this series’ opening game, it’s clear that many, including the oddsmakers, realize the fact that both squads are quite evenly matched. While the Hawks are favoured, it’s because they begin Game 1 playing on what has been a very friendly home-ice advantage for them. Chicago is 9-1 in the post-season at the United Center, but they’ve yet to encounter a group playing as well as the Bruins are at the moment.
Boston looked sluggish during many stretches of their opening-round series against Toronto. It looked like it was all over for them, but their miracle comeback has reinvigorated the group and breathed a sense of life into them they seemed to be missing. They’ve been dominant ever since, rolling through two very capable teams in the Rangers and Penguins. Shutting down Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin is quite the feat, and you’ve got to wonder what the likes of Toews, Kane, Sharp, and Hossa are thinking after seeing that. This Boston team plays a style well-suited to the road, and even though this post-season has leaned heavily to teams on home ice, the B’s remain one of the league’s top teams away from their home building. They enter this series an impressive 5-2 record and there’s no reason they can’t head into Chicago in Game 1 and take home-ice away from their Original Six rivals.
For the Bruins to be successful tonight, they must replicate their efforts against a Pittsburgh group that frankly boasts more firepower than the Blackhawks. What the Bruins did against the Penguins was remarkable. They were ferocious and stifling, not allowing for any freedom to roam from the star power of the Penguins. If Boston can be that committed and well-disciplined again tonight, it will not only set the appropriate tone for the remainder of the series, but it will provide them with a 1-0 series lead.
This is Boston team that very closely resembles the Cup victors of just 24 months ago. Their defense-first approach has given teams fits through the playoffs and that will continue tonight and throughout the duration of this series. Zdeno Chara was a beast against Crosby and Malkin, and should be able to hndle Patrick Kane and the slumping Jonathan Toews. Boston now has the blue-print on shutting down talented offenses and expect them to do just that again versus Chicago. Expect Boston to focus on getting pucks in deep and utilizing their huge size and strength advantage to spend the majority of time playing in Chicago’s zone. Beyond Duncan Keith, Chicago’s blue-line remains vulnerable and can be beaten. Corey Crawford has been steady these play-offs but won’t be able to match Boston’s Tuukka Rask who is putting on one of the best goaltending displays of recent memory.
The Bruins will finish their checks and establish a physical tone and forecheck early in Game 1. This is a team built for this style of hockey and will be able to assert their dominance over the Blackhawks. They’ve looked unbeatable since that comeback against Toronto, and it showed in their complete dismantling of the Cup favourites in Pittsburgh. When this team does concede chances, Rask and that defense will be there to bail the rest of the team out. At some solid underdog value, the Bruins are a very solid bet for Game 1. They know what it takes to win away from home, and provide a very difficult match-up for the Blackhawks Bet on the Bruins to get off to the Cup Finals on a winning note.
PICK = Boston (+130)