THE BLACKHAWKS will party like it's 2013. In a rematch of the Stanley Cup finals from two seasons ago—a classic in every sense, from the Original Six opponents to Dave Bolland's last-minute Cup-winning goal—Chicago will edge the Bruins once again.
Both clubs are balanced, melding four capable lines and six efficient defensemen, and both are disciplined enough to win low-scoring games. But the Blackhawks have advantages on several counts. First, they are a better overall offensive team than Boston. Recall Chicago's 6--5 victory in Game 4 two years ago, a game in which the pressing forwards from both teams were able to create turnovers and odd-man rushes. That kind of contest will not favor the Bruins, who simply can't match the Blackhawks' double-barreled attack of Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews. In addition to that pair, Chicago also has a number of forwards who have young legs and loads of playoff experience, including center Andrew Shaw and wingers Brandon Saad and Kris Versteeg.
Second, while the Bruins' defense has matured, the Blackhawks still have more players who can generate offense from the blue line. Duncan Keith (above) is a two-time Norris Trophy winner, and Brent Seabrook has a penchant for scoring big goals in big moments; he scored two overtime winners during Chicago's postseason run in 2013. Fifth-year pro Nick Leddy, 23, is also a dependable puck mover and playmaker—his 24 assists last year were the third most among the team's defensemen. Two years ago the Blackhawks also showed that their relentless attack could wear down Boston defenseman Zdeno Chara, 37, forcing the Bruins' captain to play draining minutes. The more Chicago employs the long stretch passes on which it thrives, the tougher it will be for Boston to pack its five-man units together and rely on short, safe passes that limit mistakes. The Bruins have an edge in goal with Vezina Trophy winner Tuukka Rask, but he won't be enough to keep the Blackhawks from winning their third Cup in six seasons.
STANLEY CUP FINALS
BLACKHAWKS OVER BRUINS
DAVID E. KLUTHO/SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (KEITH)
DAVID E. KLUTHO/SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (CUP)