While most of the hockey world will be focused on top end names like Toews, Kane, Hossa, Chara, Krejci, Lucic, and Rask, a handful of lesser knowns could be the true stars of the 2013 Stanley Cup Final. Here's a closer look at five players you need to watch.
If you are old enough to have watched the 1979 Stanley Cup Final, then you witnessed the last time two Original Six teams faced off for championship glory. Not only do we have a matchup of two clubs with storied histories, but we have two teams that are riding in as high as can be.
The Boston Bruins are 9-1 in their last 10 games and the Chicago Blackhawks are 7-1 in their last 8. That is quite the feat when you considered who they took out. Let's dig into this matchup and find out where the value lies.
Usually when you make it all the way to the finals you do it on the backs of great special teams play. The question for both of these teams is whether the glass is half full or half empty. The mind-blowing aspect to the Bruins last round was not that they swept the titans of East in the Pittsburgh Penguins, but that they shut down the scariest power play unit we've seen on the ice since the Edmonton Oilers of the 80's.
When it comes to betting on games involving the Pittsburgh Penguins, there is only one constant - they score a lot of goals. In their 11 playoff games so far, they've scored four or more in 9 of them. Therefore, if you want to skip the series bet altogether and just ride "over" on their team total every game, you won't get an argument from me.
Yet, before you go and asssume the Penguins will ride their high-flying offense all the way to the finals, let's consider something about the Bruins that neither the Islanders or the Senators had - balance.
It's a given that we're going to focus on this area first because goalies in hockey are like quarterbacks in football. If yours is hot, you're likely going far, if not all the way. In round one I picked the Islanders +2 games for this sole reason alone. Nabokov isn't great, but I knew Fleury could be even worse. Unfortunately for me, the Penguins had a backup plan and inserted safety-valve Tomas Vokoun. Vokoun has posted good numbers so far and been steady enough to get past Ottawa, but what if the Senators had a better offense?
With all the talk about parity in the NHL, we find ourselves with the last four Stanley Cup winners in the final four. I did not think the Los Angeles Kings were going to make it this far this season, but when you get goaltending like Quick is providing, all bets are off.
In contrast, I'm not at all surprised the Blackhawks are here, but I did not expect them to have as much trouble with the Red Wings as they did. That said, they did not face any adversity all season or in the first round of the playoffs. Once they were pushed in a corner, we saw what this team was really made of.
Let's take a closer look at the deciding factors between these two.
Both favorites, the Hawks and the Penguins, have dynamite offenses, but suspect goaltending. This is where we need to have most of our focus for this matchup. There is no denying that when the pressure is on, Quick rises to the top. He didn't have the best regular season. In fact, some could argue it was merely average. Yet, when we look at the stats page he is sitting with a .948 save percentage and the inside track to another Conne Smythe Trophy.
Both the New York Rangers and Boston Bruins won their first round matchups in seven games. The big difference was how they did it. The entire hockey world were wondering what gold course the Bruins would be showing up on in the third period, but they battled back and won one of the most dramatic games in recent memory. Meanwhile, the Rangers silenced the Washington faithful on the road and smothered them for a 5-0 clincher. Let's take a closer look at how these two matchup in round 2.
Despite advancing in round 1, both of these teams had some big guns that went MIA. Seguin, Marchand, and Jagr are key cogs in the Boston wheel and none of them provided the kind of offense the team expected. Seguin had over 20 shots alone and still couldn't find a way to get a goal. Conversely, Richards and Nash couldn't do much for their side either. Richards was even dropped to the fourth line at times which is the ultimate slap in the face for someone of his pedigree.
Who is most likely to break their slump and put their team over the top in round 2? The simple answer could be no one.