Off-season chatter for Tuesday, June 11Posted on June 11, 2013 by John Walton
The Stanley Cup Final begins Wednesday in Chicago, as the Blackhawks and Boston Bruins begin what promises to be a memorable best-of-seven series. It’s tough to imagine two teams coming in with more momentum than these two, after the Hawks bounced the defending champion Kings in five, and the Bruins swept away the high-flying Penguins in four. Nearly all of us expected longer series in the third round that didn’t materialize. But there seems to be no evidence to suggest the Final will follow that same path. It seems a safe bet the best hockey of the season is still yet to come.
Both teams feature goaltenders playing well, but neither have a Cup win on their respective resumes yet. One of them will after this series. Corey Crawford stared down Jonathan Quick with little difficulty in the last round, so it’s tough to imagine the task of facing Tuukka Rask will be any more daunting. Rask’s biggest test of the postseason to date was likely dueling with Henrik Lundqvist in round two. On paper, the matchup looks pretty even. There's a pretty good chance one of them will be the Conn Smythe winner when the dust settles as well. Call this a draw.
Where the series will likely be won or lost will be Chicago’s ability to produce goals against a Boston defense that has been crushing it over the last two rounds. The Hawks have no apparent weaknesses up front, but they don't have the offensive talent on paper Pittsburgh had this season. Will Chicago fare any better than the flightless birds? If they do, they’ll be the champs. I can’t imagine there’s a bigger concern for the coaching staff in the Windy City right now than how to produce offense against a team that has slammed the door since the end of the first round against everyone. Edge goes to the Bruins here.
The Hawks will use United Center’s home ice to its advantage, and win a couple of games. But I have a hard time seeing anyone beating the Bruins. One year removed from losing to Washington in the first round, Boston wins the Stanley Cup in six over the Hawks. If it happens, remember where you heard it first. If it doesn't, please disregard. :)
With the Final beginning this week, there are 28 teams on the sideline now, waiting for September. No team is perhaps at the crossroads more than the Pittsburgh Penguins. Dan Bylsma is one of the most respected coaches in the league, and general manager Ray Shero’s moves during the regular season were universally praised at the time they were made. Now, after a humiliating exit (albeit in the third round), it sounds like change is coming to Steel City. I understand there are consequences for “going for it” in the trade department and coming up short, but I’m still surprised at all the reports that say the Pens are bracing for major changes. Could Bylsma really be out? Tough to imagine, even with some playoff stumbles after winning the Cup in ’09. Both Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang are slated to be unrestricted free agents after the 2013-14 season. It’s unlikely they can both be inked beyond that, but not impossible. In the salary cap era, there are always going to be holes to fill. But Pittsburgh’s roster looks solid for next year, if goaltending doesn’t betray them. Widespread change seem like an overreaction to me. If the Pens want to blow it up and start anew, I doubt anyone in Washington or the new “Patrick” Division will be upset. It just seems like an overreaction to me, from an objective standpoint.
For teams that may be looking to add to its defensive corps this summer, the news of former Washington blueliner Sergei Gonchar signing with Dallas cannot be met with good feelings. Gonchar had his rights traded from Ottawa to the Stars last week, and was promptly signed to a two-year, 10 million dollar deal. He’s 39 years old, and will turn 40 before next year’s postseason starts. Gonchar had a good year for Ottawa, but with nearly 1,200 games played in the NHL, there are a lot of mileage stacked up. What will Mark Streit fetch if Gonchar is a five million dollar guy? What about other pending UFA's out there? Certainly the price has gone up now that SG is signed up in big D. It will be interesting to watch what the price tag for blueliners will be starting July 5.
Enjoy the start of the Final. If you’ve got questions for us on the Caps Report Wednesday, email them to firstname.lastname@example.org or fire them over via Twitter to @WaltonCaps and @VogsCaps for 2:00 p.m.Posted in: Sports