Sunday, June 9, 2013

Stanley Cup Finals pick

On Boston-Pittsburgh, I might have overestimated the quality of Boston's group of skaters. I didn't think they'd be dominant, but aside from Game 2, seemed like Boston had the better of it overall. I did think/hope Rask would give Boston the edge, but not such a big edge. I don't think anyone would have picked Boston to hold any team to just two goals against in four games, let alone Pittsburgh, which boasts the league's best offense (this sweep notwithstanding).
Pittsburgh probably has better defensemen--Chara vs Letang/Martin/Orpik--but Boston's forward group is pretty scary, too. Bergeron has played pretty well in the postseason so far, and at his best he and Chara can beat either Malkin or Crosby, I'd think.

Given how the Krejci line has been playing (really well), it might be able to hold the other line (probably Malkin's) to a draw...It's worth remembering that this isn't the same old Pittsburgh team, but with Crosby, Iginla, Morrow, and Vokoun--Jordan Staal could provide low-end-top line-level scoring in difficult minutes, and you basically lose all of that offense with Brandon Sutter instead of Staal. Pittsburgh aside from Crosby isn't as strong as it was in the past...I think Boston's offense is much better than it showed during the abbreviated regular season.

Bruins in 7.
On Blackhawks-Kings, I was hoping LA would get its act together, but that didn't happen.
I don't know whether "normal" LA will show up again, like it did in Game 7 against San Jose, or whether we'll see a worse Kings team. Chicago has depth, and if the Kings aren't playing well, it may be too much for even them to handle. I think ultimately, though, Kopitar should be able to play Toews to a standstill or win, Richards should be able to handle the Hawks' second line, and with good discipline and reasonable special teams, the Kings should advance. (And that's not even considering that Quick is lights-out right now.)

Kings in 6.
It was amazing how much of a difference maker Drew Doughty was on a bad ankle (h/t @Tsetse_fly). Dustin Brown, who was playing on a torn PCL (shouldn't his knee have fallen apart by now?), was not, and Kopitar did hold Toews to a standstill for the most part but could carve out an advantage for LA.

It's also amazing how productive Chicago's depth has been, carrying them through the playoffs while Kane and Toews haven't been the center of the offense (though Kane's hat trick could signal the end of their slump). Bickell especially has made some nice plays, and while Sharp and Hossa didn't really stand out to me in Game 5, they've had their chances throughout the playoffs, and their two-way play should really help against Boston's plethora of defensively responsible forwards.

It should be a great Finals matchup. I do like Chicago in this, though--too much depth.

It may sound like a double standard considering that I liked Boston to shut down Pittsburgh, but I don't think Pittsburgh had as much depth as people thought--those third and fourth lines won't provide much--while Chicago can throw out guys like speedy Stalberg and future top-six center Kruger in the bottom-six. Chicago also can throw out many different combinations up front, which may prove helpful--if Toews-Kane isn't working, Toews-Hossa might, etc.

I also like the Hawks' blueline better than Pittsburgh's, or Boston's for that matter--I feel like they're better equipped to hold their own, since most of those guys have value at both ends of the ice (whereas aside from Krug, Chara, and Hamilton, Boston's D is mostly valuable only on the defensive end).

In goal, Crawford has played well. Rask has been much better, but I think he'll come back to Earth somewhat. As it is, Chicago eventually did solve Jimmy Howard, and broke Jonathan Quick. How much harder could it be to solve Rask?

Blackhawks in 6.

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