Carrying on from my last post about the defining characteristics of the Blackhawks, we can now apply them towards the best in the East. Heart is going to be talked about a lot in this best of 7 series with the Bruins, which has all the makings of a true 7 game series. Both teams are the deepest teams in their respective sides of the country, and both have gotten some stellar goaltending leading up to this point. So, how does this match-up breakdown?
Boston proved that the size of your body isn't as important as the size of your heart. Thanks to watching Marchand and company completely neutralize Crosby. It was the heart and intensity of the Bruins that utterly destroyed the talent filled Pens. Marchand is like a slightly more talented Shaw, and both are guys you like to have on your side. Not surprisingly, I see the 2 of them having huge impacts on the outcome of this series without probably ever being on the ice at the same time.
Match-ups are going to be key here, and Q better not avoid that factor in game 1. He needs to take advantage of home ice. Boston has 2 really strong top lines, with the top being the highest scoring in the playoffs. Krejci and Horton are 1 and 2 in scoring with 38 points between the 2 of them. Yes, Kane, Toews, and Bickell will need to keep up the tempo they left us with.
The next line of Marchand, Bergeron, and Jagr has also been deadly, but their assignment will most likely be the Toews line. Bergeron also happens to be a monster at the dot, so that will leave us with our big guns going at it in that department. My hope here, is that our guys expose Jagr's lack of speed. My other hope is that Zetterberg was even better at what Marchand is going to have to do, and that Toews will be the better for having gone through that already. With the power that the Toews line has shown in offensive domination, I will go out on a limb and say that they get the upper hand here.
That will leave Sharp, Hossa, and Handzus to handle the scoring power of the Kreji line. It will be a big task for Handzus to win the bulk of his draws as this might end up being the difference. The forechecking skill of this Boston line is where their scoring stems from though. As a result, Keith and Seabs will see them an awful lot, and hopefully their bag of tricks to handle a nasty forecheck pays off. The Pens did not have an amazing back end which the Bruins exposed big time. Not the case with this Hawks team. Hossa and Sharp are going to have to play some dirty hard hockey, and never leave their D out to dry though.
The back-end was the huge difference between the Pens and Bruins. Where the Pens were lacking, the Hawks have plenty to go around. Both the Hawks and Bruins have a strong defensive line-up, but some of the Bruins success here, comes from a team defense. I see the Hawks D being the extra factor in the Hawks favor. Let's hope that Chara's shot doesn't kill Hjalmer at some point. Who will be raising their hand to block that shot?
And, while the Bruins are also a very deep team, the 3rd and 4th line of the Hawks have the upper hand IMO. I said Shaw and Marchand will be huge factors in this series and this is why. If Marchand can kill the Hawks best scoring threat, it looks dire for the Hawks. But, if the Hawks 3rd line of Shaw, Saad, and Stalberg continue to look as devastating as we have come to see from them, I like the chances of this line being the rib punches that end up wearing the Bruins down.
Not shockingly, it will be the heart of these players that end up deciding who holds the Cup. Saad and Shaw have been such demons, and I feel like Saad might punch through a wall that has held back his scoring. Stalberg finally emerging with the goal of winning a Cup could really help at this point too. He hasn't been terrible, but he has not really shown any eagerness to bring his speed and size out. If he does, this line will overwhelm Boston's 3rd who isn't anything to laugh at either.
Looking at the 4th lines, the Blackhawks have an obvious edge. Frolik has no right being on a 4th line, and neither did Bolland at a time. We all know the size of Kruger's heart. Again, I think this line takes the advantage behind the monstrous play of Frolik.
This series is going to be intense, and at the end of the day, I have no predictions to make. The Bruins bring such a high level of intensity that it kind of scares you, but the Hawks have more to give too. They will have to want it really bad, and with a little of that poise, resolve, and confidence in their team's abilities, they ultimately have the upper hand in their deadly knock-out punches of pure skill when they decide to match wills to win. This one will not be for the faint of heart.
Filed under: Pregame