Leading up to Wednesday's Game 1, Puck Daddy is previewing every facet of the Stanley Cup Final between the Chicago Blackhawks and Boston Bruins — on the ice and off the ice.
The Blackhawks and Bruins' meeting in the Stanley Cup Final is evidence of two things: 1) God has turned his back on you, Vancouver, and 2) you don't necessarily need the powerplay to be clicking in order to make it to the dance.
Chicago and Boston come into this series having scored just 7 powerplay goals apiece, and judging by the way both units have looked, even if their respective Conference Finals had gone on a little longer, that number likely wouldn't be any higher.
Don't expect it to climb much in this series, either. Even if the officials swallow their whistles, someone is bound to put a puck over the glass, at which point we're sure to be reminded that not only are neither of these teams all that proficient up a man -- they're both fantastic down one.
But who has the advantage on special teams?Chicago Blackhawks
The Blackhawks should have a fabulous powerplay. With Duncan Keith quarterbacking the unit, and the likes of Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, and Marian Hossa up front, they should be a lethal weapon. Instead, they've been more "Lethal Weapon 4" since day one.
In the regular season, despite being far and away the league's best team, the Blackhawks' powerplay was slightly below average, clocking in at 16.4% successful -- good for 19th. They've been even worse in the playoffs, converting just 13.7% of the time.
Fortunately, their penalty kill has been great. It was third in the league during the regular season at 87.2%, and it's even managed to improve since the bottom 14 teams were sent home. Led by Marcus Kruger and Michael Frolik, who absolutely hound the puck on the first PK unit, the Blackhawks have jumped up to a 94.8% kill rate. They've been burned just 3 times in 58 shorthanded situations -- once on the road and twice at home.
This might sound familiar: the Bruins weren't very good on the powerplay during the regular season. Unlike the Blackhawks, they've marginally improved in the playoffs, but only because regression would have been difficult. The Bruins were 26th in the league with a 14.8% powerplay. In the postseason, they're clicking at 15.6%.
Their powerplay mediocrity isn't as difficult to make sense of, however. The Bruins top offensive producers are built for even-strength play -- they're far more "make space in traffic" than "make hay with space".
Boston's penalty kill, like Chicago's, is a machine. In the regular season, they killed 87.1% of penalties, just one-tenth of a percentage point behind Chicago for fourth. In the playoffs, they've trailed off only slightly, at 86.5%. They were especially effective versus Pittsburgh, holding the potent Penguins powerplay to zero goals. Their strengths are simple: incredible faceoff men, great puck pursuit, Zdeno Chara's absurdly long stick (and matching, absurdly large body), and Tuukka Rask.
In the end, Boston and Chicago aren't all that dissimilar on special teams, but the Blackhawks should have an edge. Their penalty kill has been superior at just shy of perfect, and if one of these two groups has the horses to actually get going in this series five-on-four, it's them.