Game one showed how even these teams are. It took almost two full games for one to pull out the win. Game two, where both coaches and players have seen the other side in action promises to be even more exciting.

Boston Bruins:

1: How effective will Nathan Horton be?

Horton’s ability to score big goals, and quietly contribute away from the puck and with little fanfare has been a big part of the teams success. His familiarity with his linemates, and their ability to play smart, physical hockey is of enormous value.

2: Will Marchand stepup and pester?

During game one, Marchand had a very quiet game. Despite 34 minutes of ice time, and being one of the fittest members of the team, he didn’t hit much and never seemed to get under anyone’s skin. Drawing players like Toews off their game might be a bit difficult, but as we’ve seen, Duncan Keith is susceptible to agitation, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see his teammates intervene to prevent another suspension.

3: Does the Bruins bottom six have a pulse?

In any normal game, the Boston Bruins can count on their second six of forwards going out and playing a useful game. Unfortunately in game one they all looked flat. Daugavins who is playing in the Cup Finals for the first time in his life, Peverley who was on the big stage two years ago looked flat with bursts of bad, and Chris Kelly may just have had the worst game of his Bruins tenure. Winning without these guys contributing is a near impossibility.

Chicago BlackHawks:

1: Where will they be early in the game?

In game one, despite eventually out-shooting, out chancing and outscoring Boston, their first period was noticeably lack luster. Their second period was only so-so. If the go at the Bruins like they did the last twenty five minutes of regulation for game one from the drop of the puck they have a solid shot at winning in regulation, and taking a 2-0 lead in the series.

2: Can they lower their giveaways?

In game one they are marked down for almost four times as many giveaways as their competition. You can’t do that and expect to win. Worse, your key players can’t be the major culprits. For the Blackhawks game one saw Keith and Seabrook commit as many giveaways as the entire Boston roster.

3: Can we spread out the shooting please?

The monstrously long game one produced a staggering amount of shots, and shot attempts. But a close look at the numbers shows a modestly disturbing fact: almost 43% of the teams shots came from three players. Of those three, only one had a goal. Worse, despite fifty combined minutes of ice time, neither Kruger nor Rozsival actually recorded a shot on net.

Coaches:

1: Can we please stop the Dave Lewis tribute?

Three bench minors in one game for too many men on the ice? Really? And these actually are two of the best coaches in hockey, who have both been to the big dance recently and won. This shouldn’t happen, even more so since there were probably one or two other ti

There are a lot of teams that need a lot of help. Some of them have more than enough depth at one position. Some teams just can’t draft a position to save their lives, and others have been taking the same commuter rail as Ozzy Ozbourne for decades. For the most part these players have more value elsewhere than on the team who currently holds their rights.

Marc Staal

If only this guy could stay healthy. He’s almost certainly a Norris quality defenseman equally capable in all three zones, a great skater, and the focal point of all bad luck for the New York Rangers. He’s been concussed by his own brother, taken shots to the face, and likely had his roster spot taken by one of the New York Rangers younger, cheaper nearly as good defenders. The team really needs to get by draft, trade or free agency a couple forwards with grit. Staal is a hell of trade piece. A team like the Oilers, Avalanche, or Red Wings would be able to offer up a substantial reward.

Matt Greene

The Kings mostly learned how to play, and play well without him last season. He’s got one year left on a modest deal. He hits like a freight train, and the Kings worked Muzzin, Martinec, Voynov and the rest hard. A team that needs physicality and dependability would be well served to snatch up this rugged blueliner. The Kings need to add speed up front if they want to win another Cup while there core is young and healthy.

Paul Stastny

Moving Stastny might require taking on a bad contract, or possibly retaining some of his salary. At his pay grade it is unlikely the Avalanche resign him as he hasn’t led the team in scoring since the 2009-10 season, and has likely been edged out of a top two line center position by Matt Duchene and Ryan O’Reilly. There are a lot of teams with different (read effective) systems that could reinvigorate the 44th pick int he 2005 draft and inspire performances closer to his World Championship level of play.

Zach Bogosian

Yes, another defenseman who might be better off elsewhere. The Jets need to get better depth up front, and Bogosian is apparently looking for a little bit more money than the Jets 2.0 ownership is willing to pay him. He’s big, he’s mobile he’s got good offense, he shoots right, he’s got almost 300 NHL games experience and he’s only 22. A deal involving him should be counted as a major deal. He might or might not ever reach the level of Doughty or Pietrangelo, but even if he doesn’t I can’t think of an NHL blueline that couldn’t fit him in.

Nino Niederreiter

The speedy, skilled forward for the Islanders clearly isn’t part of the teams long term plans. With a year left on his entry level deal, and him not turning 21 until September the right wing is still a true prospect who might intruige another team enough to part with something the now playoff conteder Islanders need, like perhaps a goalie prospect or as part of trade deal for a quality NHL starting goaltender.

Jordan Caron

This guy has had several chances to make it in the Bruins system, and he plays well might even say really well away from the puck. However he’s got absolutely zero confidence playing in the NHL right now. If he can get into a system and be told at the start of the season “the third/second line right wing slot is yours” and count on getting 12-14 minutes a night on a regular line plus a little penalty kill time he can almost certainly still be a twenty goal man, penalty killer and regular NHL player. The Bruins are just a bit too deep at forward for him to get that luxury right now.

Hockey is the ultimate team sport. You play together, you stand by each other in the locker room and on the ice. Good days, bad games, great plays and long days. And the veterans look after their younger, newer team mates. Especially the rookies. Or at least most guys do.

For goaltenders the most imporant players on the ice are there defensemen. These guys are the last line of defense before the the goaltender, and the first guys in line to get the puck out of the zone. A third pairing defenseman may see as much time a top nine forward. When it comes to guys goalies should want to keep happy, after the head coach, defensemen should head the list. Most goalies go out of their way to credit their defense when they have good games. But that’s not the case for Tuukka Rask.

We all remember the game he was pulled from a few years ago when he was berating the defense and slamming his stick after a puck deflected off a defender going out to block a shot. And who can forget Rask’s heroic tantrum in the AHL where he through milk crates all over the place and carried on, and on, and on. That at least was in the heat of the moment, and was a few years ago.

Tossing Krug under the bus like he did is inexcusable. The goal he’s talking about is the second of four goals that went by him. The OT goal was a double deflection. But Rask was clearly out of position on one goal, and one other went in the place anyone who has watched Rask play goal knows to put it. There were just twelve minutes left in regulation and the Bruins still had a lead after the turnover and goal.

If Chicago goes on to win the series, I’m not sure what we’ll be saying, we won’t be talking about superior speed as when they beat the Kings, we won’t be talking about them being notably more skilled as when they beat the Blues, but we could just be talking about one set of guys in uniform playing like a real team, and the other not.

The Chicago Blackhawks and Boston Bruins have gotten scoring from the front and back, but not its time for the final run of games. These next few games will decide if some players get there names on the Cup for the first, second, or in some case third time. The majority of the Boston Bruins were on the roster for the last Cup appearance just two years ago.

For the Chicago Blackhawks, the first and most critical player who needs to have more than one goal is Captain Serious Jonathan Toews. He’s  got just one goal this off season. That leaves him behind almost all the teams forwards and more than one defenseman. More importantly, it pales in comparison to the seven goals he put up during Chicago’s last Stanley Cup run. He’s the catalyst to this team, and for it to preform to its highest level he needs to perform to his highest level.

Brandon Bolig has been inserted into the lineup, and while and while he’s never been known for his offense, he needs to at least be a threat. He’s not going to intimidate the Boston Bruins, and if all he does is hit people the Bruins will just ignore him.

Jaromir Jagr has come so close so many times it seems downright unnatural he has zero post season goals, and just the two regular season goals since landing in the spoked B. He seems to have missed the net by fractions of an inch a number of times. He’s a living legend, he’s a first ballot hall of famer, and i he wants his name on the Cup 21 years after the last time he was in the big dance, he needs to stretch the twine.

Tyler Seguin is at the end of his entry level deal. Starting July 5th he needs to live up to his new nearly six million dollar cap hit. If he can’t produce in the post season he’s going to get a lot of negative affection from the Boston Bruins fans. He was the consensus number two draft pick just three summers ago. Today he stands third in his draft class behind players who have played significantly less games, and who haven’t gotten any second season experience as he has. They haven’t gotten to play with Recchi or Jagr, or Chara. Seguin’s one goal was against the Rangers and was part of his only two point night of the playoffs. He’s produced just four points in 16 games, giving him less than Torey Krug who has played seven less games.

Chris Kelly has had a poor offensive regular season, and an even poorer playoff run. In the absence of Gregory Campbell’s defensive prowess, Kelly has to not only play his own two way game, he needs to score and set up scoring.

It’s time for the last drinking game of the season (unless I do one for the draft) time to empty out the closet, and make sure you remember the results of the drinking game and possibly the series until fall when hockey starts up again.

Take One Drink:

You wish your local announce team were doing the game.

More than two players go crashing into the net.

Someone finishes a game with more than five shots and no goals.

Gary Bettman is shown and booed.

In game interview questions are answered with a cliche.

The hometown of a player is mentioned.

When asked about scoring a goal or making a save a player references a teammate.

The Junior or College team of a player is mentioned.

An exterior shot of the arena is shown and it includes people who are clearly chemically altered.

At each mention of “Original Six” in game one or two.

Someone mentions the department of player safety.

Whenever Pierre or another talking head says something that makes people just a bit uncomfortable. s/t @ChrisWasselTHW #HockeyPorn

If a fight breaks out with more than 4 million dollars in salary involved.

Take Two Drinks

The Bochenski-Versteeg trade is brought up.

Every time someone is mentioned as a Conn-Smythe candidate. s/t @HockeyMand

A team scores two unanswered goals.

At any mention of someone named Espisito or Orr.

A save is called “brilliant”, “spectacular” or “larceny” when in fact it was pretty routine.

Special teams stats are mentioned.

Highlights from the teams past Cup wins are shown not counting the last one.

A former player for either team is shown.

The other teams goal song sucks.

Someone scoring drought is mentioned.

An exterior shot of an arena is shown and no one (except maybe the commentators) is

You’re so mad at your team you want them to win only so you don’t have to read their Puck Daddy Eulogy.

A ny time a side by side comparison of Tuukka and Corey Crawford is shown. s/t @RJGreenWood

An announce uses the words “good clean hit” to describe something that turned most of one fan base into frothing mouth breathers that sound like Foamy (NSFW) :

Take Three Drinks

Every time one of the keystone players is mentioned.

The officials call one side of an altercation that should be a both or neither situation.

Someone “speculates” about the NHL awards for this season.

A player is asked about their previous playoff experience.

Two players on the same team skate into each other.

Anytime the word “momentum” is used.

At any puck over the glass delay of game.

The past awards of a player are mentioned.

Someone discusses rule changes.

The captains not having touched the conference title trophies is shown.

Any top six forward finishes a game with zero shots.

At any too many men penalty.

Take Four Drinks

If there is a post whistle scrum that does not involve Marchand or Shaw.

If NHL.com fails to make a punny headline for their update in game.

Gary Bettman is shown and not booed.

Someone says the referees have “swallowed the whistles” or otherwise won’t be calling much.

A coach or player says “we just need to be better in our own end” after a bad period or game.

At each mention of Original Six in game three or later.

A faceoff is missed for yet more advertising.

You can hold your breath between the bad call and the makeup call.

The fourth lines are mentioned.

If the career records of either coach are mentioned.

Whenever a clip of a game winning or cup clinching goal is shown.

The handshake line in mentioned and it is not a close out game.

Chug

Either team goes more than four minutes without a shot on goal.

Either team is called for three or unmatched penalties in a row.

Each time an owner is shown or mentioned before the Cup is awarded.

A player gets a short handed shot on goal.

Someone specifically highlights one of the matchups in the Keystone Players article.

Either team scores two powerplay goals in the same game.

A player argues with a call that was clearly a penalty.

 

For maximum fun, enjoy a different beverage each period. Calling in sick for work for the next day is advisable in some cases. It might not hurt to have a handy bucket and or a pre arranged ride to the hospital. Maybe you can even pin a “please take me to the hospital, and put on the hockey game” note on your shirt ahead of time.

 

Disclaimer:

No one is responsible for the stupid act you commit in any chemical state. Nor is anyone but you responsible for the permanent damage you’re likely to do to your body if you follow this game faithfully.  This game might just be a spectacular way to end up on Tosh.O, Intervention or at least Texts From Last Night. If you really must blame someone, blame your parents they should have known better anyways. PuckSage, the NHL, NHLPA, The Bruins and Blackhawks take no responsibility for your actions, have a nice day.

The Blackhawks and Bruins have gotten to the last dance of the season by simply outplaying their opponents. Both have had short series, and both have had a series where they played down to the level of their competition. Both teams are laden with guys who were on their teams last winning squad. Both teams have player who will be a large part of why the team succeeds or fails.

Blueline Bosses:

Zdeno Chara vs Duncan Keith

Two Norris winning defensemen who are more than competent in all three zones facing off in the Stanley Cup finals has become something of a rarity. Keith is the smooth skating, slick passing, BlackHawks alternate captain who can be counted on to chip in more than a little offense. He idolized Ray Bourque as youngster and plays a similar game. Zdeno Chara is the definition of power and power projection. His slap shot has broken bones and records, his checks have sent guys spinning, and yet he’s often at his most effective simply taking away space, and swiping the puck off of an opponent from what would be well outside the reach of any other player in NHL history.

Three Zone Czars

Patrice Bergeron vs Jonathan Toews

It is unlikely either of these teams will be embarrassed to own up to their faceoff stats with these two on the ice. Puck possession starts with winning the puck, and these guys can do it at the dot, along the wall, in open ice and damn near anywhere else they want. Both players are capable of clutch scoring, and equally capable of shutting down opponents top offensive powers. Of the two Toews is better offensively, Bergeron defensively neither is going to be outside the top five two-way forward list of anyone who knows hockey.

Orkins Meal Ticket

Brad Marchand vs Andrew Shaw

This promises to be one of the more entertaining and visibly engaging match-ups of the series. Andrew Shaw is new to the leagues rank of pests and hasn’t yet developed the reputation of other players we could name. With nearly identical physical attributes, at least according to the always accurate NHL data on such, it will be interesting to see them both on the ice together. Brad Marchand on the hand made a name for himself speed-bagging an impotent Daniel Sedin, and getting away with it. Marchand is better offensively, and plays in all situations, Andrew Shaw will likely get the benefit of the doubt from officials a bit more often than his opposite number.

Purveyors of Points

David Krejci vs Patrick Kane

The All American boy Patrick Kane, friend of cab drivers and David Krejci the saint of Sternbeck are the guys most likely to put up important points at any given moment. Patrick Kane has a cup clincher on his resume along with several other equally spectacular goals in the playoffs and regular season. Krejci is for the second time in his career leading the NHL in post season scoring. He was a critical part of the winning goals in more than one series, and seems to get points almost at will.

Big Bodies

Milan Lucic vs Bryan Bickell

The two left wings are both about half past six feet, and over two hundred pounds. Neither is shy about upending an opponent or two on their way to the net. Both are capable of standing in front of the net and making life unpleasant for defenseman and goaltenders trying to move them or see around them. While Bickell has had more goals this post season, he’s also doubled his playoff experience going from 15 games coming into the post season to 32 heading into the finals. Lucic plays about five more minutes a night, blocks more shots, and has displayed a knack for setting up goals that has him doubling up his fellow left winger.

Silent Assassins

Nathan Horton vs Patrick Sharp

Neither of these players is going to top anyone’s scouting report on their team. Yet somehow Sharp leads his team in points, and Horton is second on his team. Both players have popped in their share of game winners this post season, both play about 18 minutes a night. Both players are just one good regular season game away from their two hundredth goal, both players will hit the 600 game mark sometime early this fall. Offensively speaking there numbers are remarkably similar. In game, Horton plays the more physical game, Sharp is more of playmaker. Both have played wing and center in their time in the NHL.

Wild Cards

Torey Krug vs Marian Hossa

Marian Hossa is one of the more dynamic forwards in the leauge moving through traffic in ways that will make you wonder if he doesn’t have some sort of cloak of invisibility, right up until he scores. Since he’s gone west he’s dropped off the radar of a lot of NHL observers, but it is highly doubtful he’ll fail to draw the attention of the Bruins defense. Torey Krug may just end up being one of those defenders, the slick youngster out of Michigan State enters the Stanley Cup Finals not just the least experienced player on either team, but with three times as many post season games as regular season (nine and three), and also three times as many post season points as regular season. His playoff pedigree isn’t as polished as Hossa’s, but it is hard to argue he didn’t tip the series against the Rangers in the Bruins favor.

This has actually been a great series to watch, as long as you aren’t a Penguins fan or hadn’t wagered heavily on them. There’s been a high scoring game, laugher goals, big hits, player tantrums, scrums, guts on display and high paced hockey for five periods in a row. Unfortunately if you do favor the Penguins they’ve come up short with a single good effort and two bad ones.

1:

Which Penguins team shows up? If it is the version from game two, this series will be over in all but the final details of the records by the middle of the first period. If the team that showed up for game three takes the ice, there is a solid chance the Consol Energy Center will get another home game.

2:

Is there something wrong with Adam McQuaid? He played over five minutes less than rookie Torey Krug during the 95 minute long game three and was part of the parade down the tunnel. He and Krug have been a solid pair, and if he is out or ineffective the reshuffling of pairs might result in some weak spots in the armor of the Bruins being exposed.

3:

Do even the hardest of the blowhards believe the meltdown this series has been is primarily Dan Bylsma’s fault? He could have made some better choices, and not shuffling the lineup after game one would have, for example, shown some poise and confidence. For that matter not putting Tyler Kennedy a proven postseason performer is highly curious, but there are about 24 or 25 other people at ice level who have been a bigger detriment to the team.

4:

Will any Penguin’s player show up and impose more of their will on the game than Deryk Engelland? The 194th pick of the 2000 draft has thrown the body with a will, passion and precision that has likely made him the best Penguin through three games. He’s the only player to even try to consistently play physically against Lucic and Horton. As one of the lowest paid players on the Penguins roster, he’s got to be the only man on the team who can look himself in the eyes and say he’s earned his money.

5:

Will this be Jagr’s game to score? It has to happen eventually, and being the player to put his old team away would be fitting.

6:

Which teams stars will have the biggest impact on the game? To date Crosby and Malkin have had a very poor series. Letang’s series can probably best be described with the use of two to three of the “seven deadly words”. But the Bruins stars aren’t immune to bad games, Rask single-handedly gave the Ranger game 4, the Krejci, Horton, Lucic line have been known to make horrific line changes or turnovers. Or it could be a dazzling performance from Jarome Iginla, or Zdeno Chara, maybe Tyler Seguin or Matt Niskanen is able to seize the the game and take it over?

For the Penguins:

1: Compusure, composure, composure. If they can’t stay focused on their system of hockey they may as well forfiet. Trying to be more physical than the Bruins or get into their heads just isn’t in the Pittsburgh Penguins DNA.

2: Play together. The Penguins have looked confused and disoriented for both games. Their normal flow of passing, and quick transition has been nonexistant. There is some amazing talent on the team, but no one or two of them are going to beat a playoff tested team that returned 18 of the players who won the Cup two years ago by themselves.

3: Don’t turn over the puck. When you’re playing any team this is important, when your goaltender is not playing well and the other team is firing on all cylnders, its is absolutely crucial.

For the Bruins

1: Don’t take stupid penalties. The Penguins powerplay will not continue to look like the Rangers powerplay, don’t give it any practice.

2:  Press the pace early. With two bad games in the bag the Penguins can not afford to get down early, and keeping them hemmed up in their defensive zone will be the best way of keeping Iginla, Neal, Kunitz and company off the score sheet.

3: Don’t stop pushing. If the Bruins are down 3-2 or up 5-0, they can not afford to allow the Penguins even a sliver of hope, there are a fistful of guys who can singlehandedly win games and for whom a four point night isn’t all that special.

For the Officials:

1: If it isn’t life or career threatening, or a required automatical call, forget the whistles. Both teams have shown a willingness to play physical, and go at it. Let them.

1.5: Call the dives. Please call the dives or the game and the series will get out of hand.

The Red Wings extended their playoff streak for yet another year limping into the playoffs just one point over 9th place Columbus. They went up against the seemingly unstoppable Anaheim Ducks and proved they had the killer instinct the Ducks lacked.

In the second round they were exposed. There are really only two issues with the Red Wings. What’s wrong with them? The question answers itself if you put on your opposing coach thinking cap and ask which players other than Datsyuk, Zetterberg and maybe Kronwall you have to game plan for. Not just who plays a lot of minutes, but who can impact the game.

Depth, is part of the issue. They have two elite, if aging forwards, an no one behind them who can be relied upon to put up 50 points in an 82 game season, or a defenseman who can be counted on to play 25 minutes of shutdown hockey a night. The answer is simple. No one. They have a lot role players. They just don’t have anything else. After their top two players, the run off from 3rd to 12th player isn’t very steep. The defense is just as badly off. You have one player at the top of the heap, and the everyone else is almost completely indistinguishable by ice time. Almost no real difference between the best and worst by ice time at even strength, short handed or powerplay.

Identity is the other thing the team lacks. There’s almost none anymore. With Bertuzzi and Tootoo in the lineup this certainly isn’t the Yzerman era Wings, nor is it the slick skating, smooth passing version of the team that allowed them to carry Osgood to a couple cups. They still have some skill, but they just don’t have the old level. While their two skill players can still leave opponents stunned with their razzle-dazzle, the Wings just aren’t a skill team anymore. They have one or two guys who can hit and hit hard, but I don’t think anyone sees this Wings team as a Flyers or Bruins type rugged roster. The Red Wings also have a compliment of muckers, but this team is no more built to grind it out than they are to drop the gloves and beat their opponents up. The current roster is a hodge-podge, a manticore without a strong emotional center give them focus. The plus side is that Howard is a much better goaltender than Osgood was at any point in his career. But he’s not (yet?) at the elite level that would allow the team to build around him as their franchise cornerstone. He’s solid, a clear number one starter, but the word elite does not stretch to encompass his careers portfolio to date.

If the Red Wings want to rebuild for the long term, they have to scour the roster back to its foundation. That means trading Zetterber and Datsyuk for as much as can be gotten and spending a year or two in the lottery and drafting well. If they want to go for a short term buildup and try to maximise the years left in their ageing stars, they certainly have the roster spots and cap space to go after whoever they want. With just two defenseman and five forwards signed in addition to Jimmy Howard, they have half their cap free to fill the roster. That does include the need to resign Datsyuk if possible as he’ll be a UFA on July 5. With forwards like Nathan Horton, Jarome Iginla, Daniel Alfredsson, and then younger players like Tyler Bozak, Bryan Bickell, and David Clarkson they can go in any number of directions.

They have the money, organisational depth is in question, but given the UFA’s they haven’t landed in the last few years, is anyone willing to go there from other markets?

For part one of this series click here.