Point/Counterpoint: Who is the favorite going into the Stanley Cup Playoffs?

BY DI STAFF | APRIL 16, 2014 5:00 AM

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Boston Bruins

When you get right down to it, there is simply not a more complete team in the Stanley Cup playoffs than the Boston Bruins.

A Vezina-caliber goaltender?  Check.

A Norris-caliber defenseman who also just so happens to be the most physically dominant blue-liner in the league?  Check.

The best two-way forward in the game and incredible scoring depth on all four lines? Check and check. 

A Bruins team that came within two wins of the Cup last season retooled in the off-season, and despite some key departures, came back even stronger to win the President’s Trophy for most points by a team this season.

Not to mention that they have 13 guys leftover from the team that did win a Cup against Vancouver in 2011.  This team knows how to win, and it can do it in a number of ways.

First and foremost, Boston has the ability to run four lines that can all beat you up physically as well as make you pay on the scoreboard. 

While Jarome Iginla and Patrice Bergeron are the B’s only 30-goal scorers, they have five who have scored at least 20, second to only Philadelphia, which has six.

In net, Tuukka Rask finished first in shutouts with 7.  He also finished in the top five in wins (36), save percentage (.930), and goals-against average (2.04).

Not to mention that a showdown with the Bruins means having to go up against defenseman Zdeno Chara, all 6-9 of him.  

— Ryan Rodriguez

Detroit Red Wings

I’m going on a limb and taking Detroit. First, because Ryan gave me grief for taking Canada back when we previewed the Olympics — “shooting fish in a barrel” was the verbiage he used, if you were wondering.

Second, because I’ve actually persuaded myself I’m right. Detroit is one of those teams that’s always around; in some periods of the last 23 years, the Red Wings have been in the playoffs, they’ve been favorites. But in some — including this season — they’re a team just lying in the weeds ready to cause a lot of trouble.

The key is getting through Boston, a physical team less than a year removed from a Stanley Cup run. In short, the Bruins are a very good team also capable of doing a ton of damage, but that won’t be enough in this opening series.

The Wings are very fast and capable of stretching the ice. That was the B’s downfall last season in the Stanley Cup Finals, and that’s been a large reason for the Wings’ 3-1 record against Boston. Oh, by the way, they’re the only team to beat the Bruins thrice this season.

I could be dead wrong; Henrik Zetterberg’s absence (it’s very unlikely he’ll play in the first round) could be too much for the Red Wings to overcome. But Mike Babcock — arguably the best coach in the league — has found a way to get his young guys to play inspired hockey and close out the season with nine wins in 15 contests.

Ryan might be in my head, but like I said, I’ve persuade myself I’m right here. If the Wings play speedy hockey and keep getting production from young guns, I see a first-round exit from Boston, a second-round return from Zetterberg, octopi on the ice, and a Stanley Cup back to Detroit.

— Danny Payne

Chicago Blackhawks

For all my other hockey fanatics out there, the next two months are what we look forward to all year. It also helps when your team is favored and has proved that it has what it takes to win. The playoffs are back, and there’s a potential for another original six Stanley Cup final this year.

There’s no doubt in my mind that the Blackhawks will be one of them and that they’ll take the cup. It’s been 16 years since the Red Wings won back-to-back titles, in ’97-98. It always amazes me how my uncles up in Michigan fit their boys back in the day under Scotty Bowman into conversation when the playoffs roll around. This year, the tides will change, and I’ll finally be able to brag about how I witnessed the Blackhawks dynasty take the throne three times in five years.

The Hawks have youth, speed, chemistry, and for the most part, their health. With Kane and Toews expected to be back in the lineup after their absence with injuries, I see no reason they can’t carry the Windy City Hawks all the way.

Chicago’s biggest downfall will be if it loses anyone in its thin lineup, but as of right now, it looks that the team will be strong. With the new playoff system in place, the Blackhawks will face teams that they are familiar with, too. They know how these teams perform, and there shouldn’t be any surprises, just some great hockey.

Whether it’s the league’s best playoff beards, Kaner’s mullet, or my lucky playoff jersey, there is no reason to think that the Chicago’s best cannot capture that Stanley Cup magic one more time.

— Tessa Hursh

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