2013 NHL Playoffs: 5 Biggest Matchups to Watch as Boston Bruins take on Chicago Blackhawks
Biggest Matchups to Watch as Boston takes on Chicago
For the first time since 1979, two Original Six teams are playing for the greatest prize in hockey, Lord Stanley’s Cup. After both the Boston Bruins and the Chicago Blackhawks steam-rolled through their respective Conference Finals, they will meet Wednesday night in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals.
It’s the final chapter of this lockout shortened season, and what better way to bring fans back into the fold than a matchup between two of the most storied franchises in the league’s history? Where Boston had Bobby Orr, Chicago had Bobby Hull. While Tony Esposito was keeping pucks out of the net in Chi-town, Phil Esposito was putting them in for the Bruins. And one year after Jonathan Toews hoisted the Cup for the Blackhawks, Zdeno Chara brought one home to Boston.
Man, this is going to be fun.
As we prepare for an epic showdown between hockey royalty, its important to look at the potential matchups we’ll be seeing in the next few games. Both of these teams have been built in a frighteningly similar fashion. Each squad has its fair share of offensive talent, while being steadied on the blue line with some very good defenders. Where Chicago takes an edge in scoring ability, Boston has a slight advantage in defense and physicality.
Either way you look at it, neither team appears to be overwhelming favorites. With these thoughts in mind, let’s take a look at the five biggest matchups between the Blackhawks and Bruins in the Stanley Cup Finals.
Tuukka Rask vs. Corey Crawford
It’s the most important aspect of any team, and in this series the men in net are going to be defining factors.
Crawford has come into his own this postseason, having just out-dueled the reigning Conn Smythe winner, Jonathan Quick. He currently holds a 1.74 GAA and a save percentage of .935.
On the other side of the coin, Rask just finished up an absolute domination of the Pittsburgh Penguins, allowing two goals in four games. He currently tops everyone’s list of Conn Smythe candidates.
Both goalies are coming in scorching, and the second one of them lets up, it could define the series.
Patrice Bergeron vs. Jonathan Toews
How exciting will it be to see two of the most well-rounded centers in the game face off against each other?
Bergeron has been heating up lately. After being quiet for most of the first round against the Toronto Maple Leafs, he scored the tying and winning goals in Game 7. He currently has five goals and six assists, and was crucial in shutting down Sidney Crosby in the Conference Finals.
Though Toews is incredibly talented, he currently only has one goal to his name in this postseason. The Bruins would be foolish to scoff at this stat. He has the ability to explode at any given moment.
Both of these centers will be trying to shut each other out, while trying to contribute offensively. This matchup may end up being the most fun to watch.
Zdeno Chara vs. Chicago's Top End Talent
If you’re on a team’s top line, you know exactly who’ll be on the ice any time your shift comes up. The towering Slovak known as Chara, has one job to do, keep the opponent’s talent from scoring. He’ll have his work cut out for him in this series.
Chara will most likely be facing the Blackhawks' first line, featuring Toews, Patrick Kane and Bryan Bickell. Kane had been struggling, but his hat trick in Game 5 helped eliminate the Los Angeles Kings. And Bickell has been on an absolute tear lately, with eight goals and five assists.
The Bruins captain has already zeroed out stars like Crosby and Rick Nash, but this top line of Chicago is one tall mountain to climb.
Claude Julien vs. Joel Quenneville
These two coaches seem to have the magic touch as of late.
Quenneville just led his team to a romp against the defending champion Kings. He was facing the hottest goalie in the league in Quick, and his team practically coasted right by him.
Julien was minutes away from being fired during the first round, but is now the man behind the bench of a Bruins team that is 9-1 in their past 10 games.
This will be an incredibly interesting matchup, as both bosses have been outcoaching their opponents left and right lately. In-game adjustments are all but guaranteed, and it will come down to which coach makes the right calls throughout this series that will determine who will get to raise the Cup.
Brad Marchand vs. Chicago's Tolerance
Oh, how Chicago is going to loathe Boston’s little ball of hate.
Marchand, who just wasn’t himself last postseason against the Washington Capitals, is back to his pugilistic ways. His ultimate act of trolling was goading Penguins tough guy Matt Cooke into a fight, then leaving him in the dust to take a Bergeron feed and put it in net.
This is what makes Marchand so tough to like if you root for any other team but Boston. Not only will he get under your skin, he also boasts surprising offensive skill and accuracy. It can severely throw a team off their game, and he’ll be sure to keep this up against Chicago.
If the Blackhawks let it get to them, it’s going to be a long series.
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