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.
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.
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.
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.
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.