Point/Counterpoint: Which team is more likely to return to the Stanley Cup Finals?
Published: Thursday, October 10, 2013
Updated: Thursday, October 10, 2013 00:10
Cody Milardo: Although I would not be surprised if the Bruins and Blackhawks met in the Stanley Cup finals again this season, if forced to pick one team to make it back this year I would have to choose Boston. It’s still early in the season but they have played well through two games and look like the class of the Atlantic Division. Although they lost some key pieces from last year’s team, the Bruins have reloaded through free agency and have the talent, experience and grit to make it back to the finals for the third time in the last four years.
Scott Carroll: The Blackhawks will definitely be back to the Stanley Cup this season and there is no doubt about it. They’re exactly the same team. You know, the same team that started the 2012 regular season with a 24-game point streak. Patrick Kane embodies the heart of the city of Chicago and the city will rally around him once more. Cory Crawford has come into his own as one of the best goalies in the league. Also, Jonathan Toews is the greatest silent captain in sports next to Derek Jeter. Expect to see the Blackhawks raise the cups once again this season.
Milardo: True, the Blackhawks return the core of the team that raised the cup last year, but the Bruins have upgraded all of their weaknesses from a year ago. The power play has already seen a dramatic improvement as the Legend of Torey Krug continues to grow. The Tyler Seguin trade that shocked many Bruins fans has improved the team as well. Loui Eriksson, the main piece that came to Boston in that deal, is an underrated two-way forward that will slide right into the vacancy left by Nathan Horton. Now that he is outside of Dallas and can step into the one of the best hockey cities in the country, he will quickly become a fan favorite. Couple that with the addition of Jarome Iginla and Boston’s top two lines can match up with anyone.
Carroll: Jarome Iginla is old enough to be my great grandfather. Not to mention that most of the Bruins players are aging – Zdeno Chara is getting up there as well. The Blackhawks are a young crew who were bred to win nothing but championships. Kane and Toews are only 24 and 25, respectively, and aren’t slowing down. Let’s face it the Bruins are moving into a retirement home while the Blackhawks are taking over the neighborhood.
Milardo: The Bruins age like fine wine, and with age comes experience. The core of their team, aside from Chara and Iginla, are all under 30. Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci are 28 and 27, respectively, and their young defensemen will only get better as the season goes on. Throw in Tuukka Rask, who is only 26 and proved he is worth every penny of the contract extension the Bruins gave him this summer, and Boston has the perfect mixture of youth and experience to bring this team where it wants to be. Plus, the Bruins has the toughness Chicago lacks. I doubt I would see any Blackhawk finish out a penalty kill after breaking his leg.
Carroll: The Blackhawks are deep enough and smart enough to not have to finish out penalty kills on broken legs as they sport the best in the league. The Blackhawks only had one glaring weakness heading into last year’s Stanley Cup and that was their below-average faceoff percentage. The Blackhawks made a conscious effort to improve this facet with the acquisition of Yanic Perreault as a developmental coach.
Milardo: Faceoffs are something that the Bruins certainly don’t have to worry about as Bergeron and Chris Kelly were first and fourth, respectively, in faceoff win percentage in the playoffs. I would say that as long as the Bruins powerplay can continue to perform at an elite level as it has so far this year, and the trio of young defensemen, Krug, Matt Bartkowski and Dougie Hamilton, continue on their developmental trajectory, the Bruins will be in good shape. Barring an injury, Boston should be able to run through the Eastern Conference, considering they rolled through Pittsburgh – who are considered the other Cup contender in the East – last year in four games.
Carroll: It is my firm belief that the Blackhawks would have repeated after the 2011 championship season if the NHL’s salary cap hadn’t forced Chicago to lose half their team to free agency. The Blackhawks are going to steam roll everyone in their way this year and that will include the Bruins if they have the privilege of losing to Chicago again this season. With the Detroit Red Wings out of the Western Conference, there will be no one to compete with the Blackhawks.