Blackhawks-Bruins Stanley Cup final not for the faint of heart
The Chicago Blackhawks face off with the Boston Bruins in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup final Wednesday night. Get ready for some meat-grinder hockey.
It is possible, one might even say probable, that when the handshakes come after the end of the Stanley Cup finals – whenever that might be – the Chicago Blackhawks and Boston Bruins might genuinely respect the players across from them.Skip to next paragraph
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After all, when that handshake line forms, each team will feel as if it is looking into a mirror.
The Blackhawks might have the more talented forwards. The Bruins might have the better goaltender. But both teams, at their core, are about lunch pail hockey. Every night, they come to the arena, strap on their helmets, and battle for every square inch of ice.
Get ready for a 200-foot war.
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This, of course, is what the Bruins are known for. With their Stanley Cup win in 2011, they brought wide-body hockey back to the National Hockey League. By the end of that 2011 finals, their opponents, the Vancouver Canucks, looked as though they'd been run through a trash compactor. Seven times.
The Bruins' largest player, the 6-foot, 9-inch defenseman Zdeno Chara, is a condor on skates – once you enter the offensive zone, you are within his reach. The Bruins' smallest player, Brad Marchand, is known as the Little Ball of Hate. Affectionately, of course.
The Blackhawks, however, are known as something else entirely. They are one of hockey's glamour teams – they of the flowing mullet of Patrick Kane, who treats the entire game like an audition for the shootout competition, and Patrick Sharp, and Marian Hossa, and ... the list goes on.
Don't believe it.
Sure, the Blackhawks can score goals. Bunches of them, in fact. They finished the regular season with 155, second only to the Pittsburgh Penguins and 24 more than the Bruins.
But that is not who they are.
Like the Bruins – and last year's Stanley Cup-champion Los Angeles Kings – they are built from the back forward. That means they have a deep corps of defenseman who are more than speed bumps in shoulder pads. They can skate, they can pass, and, yes, they can even score.
At a time in hockey history when just getting the puck out of your own zone has become a feat worthy of fireworks and a marching band, mobile defensemen who can move the puck have become the second box that any serious Stanley Cup contender must check off (after having a top goaltender). In Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook, the Blackhawks have two of the best in the game.