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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.

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And the Blackhawk defensemen are not alone in doing the defending. While the Blackhawks' forward corps is more offensively explosive than Boston's, in many ways, they look a lot like the Bruins. They are as much about keeping the puck out of their own net as putting it in the other one.

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There is Jonathan Toews, who, like Bruin Patrice Bergeron, is a finalist for the Selke award – given to hockey's best defensive forward. In the previous round, Bergeron made Penguin Sidney Crosby, arguably the best player in the world, look like someone who had lost his car keys. Now the Bruins will get the same treatment in reverse.

Then there is Dave Bolland, who, like Bruin Shawn Thornton, is not enjoying himself if he's not scraping someone against the end boards. Or perhaps putting his sweaty glove in someone's face.

The list goes on. Hulking Bryan Bickell is the Blackhawks' answer to Bruin Milan Lucic. And Blackhawk Andrew Shaw, whose job is to be so annoying that everyone on the opposing team wants to punch him in the face, gushes about the Bruins' Marchand.

"I’ve always looked up to him and admired him. It’s going to be great to actually play against him once," Shaw said at a media conference.

He might be the only human ever to have uttered those words.

Even the teams' pretty-boy goal-scorers – Kane and Bruin Tyler Seguin – played together on a team in Switzerland during the NHL lockout last year.

"It was a lot of fun," Seguin told ESPN. "I got to know him. He’s a good guy. Obviously playing with someone that has that much talent and skill is definitely something you’re going to remember."

The conventional wisdom is that this is going to be a classic series. The fact that every pundit is picking the series to go six or seven games means none of them has any idea who's going to win. And how could they?

The Blackhawks feast on opponents' mistakes, transitioning from defense to offense with a speed that leaves many teams trailing haplessly in their wake. But since Round 1, the Bruins aren't making any mistakes. They play Hockey 101 – dump, chase, hit, repeat – and they have been playing it flawlessly.

The Bruins send opponents into spirals of despair when it becomes apparent that it is nearly impossible to score on them. Yet the Blackhawks actually gave up fewer goals than the Bruins in the regular season – and have allowed fewer goals per game than the Bruins in the playoffs, too. They're perfectly happy to play meat-grinder hockey, thank you.

And that's good. Because that's what they're likely to get.


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