BRUINS at BLACKHAWKS
(Game 1 of best-of-7 series)
TV: NBC, CBC, RDS
Season series: There were no crossover games between conferences in the shortened NHL season, so the Boston Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks did not play each other. They last met Oct. 15, 2011, at United Center, with the Bruins winning 3-2 in a shootout. Tim Thomas started that game in net for Boston, and Corey Crawford started for Chicago and made 35 saves. The prior game between the teams in Boston was March 29, 2011, with the Bruins winning 3-0. Boston forward Shawn Thornton left that game after his head was cut by a skate blade and the Bruins claimed a Blackhawks player said something to stir up harsh feelings as he left the ice.
Big story: Two of the oldest franchises in the NHL are ready for a series that has the potential to be a classic. Not only is it the first time since 1979 that two Original Six franchises have played for the Cup -- and the first time the Bruins and Blackhawks have faced each other in the Final -- but the Blackhawks and Bruins are built similarly and play quite a bit alike. Chicago and Boston have foundations set on defense and goaltending, but have plenty of offense to go with it.
The Blackhawks's depth allowed them to roll up 77 points during the regular season and win the Presidents' Trophy, giving Chicago home ice throughout the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs. They've used it well, going 9-1 and closing out all three of their series this spring at United Center. Boston finished second in the Northeast Division and fourth in the Eastern Conference with 62 points, but the Bruins are peaking at the right time -- they swept the top-seeded Pittsburgh Penguins to win the Eastern Conference Final.
Bruins: Boston's confidence couldn't be much higher coming into this series after taking out Sidney Crosby and the star-studded Penguins in four games. Tuukka Rask has been superb in goal, the defense being played in front of him is smothering opposing forwards, and the Bruins seem to get timely goals whenever they're needed. The season-ending injury to gritty fourth-line center Gregory Campbell leaves a sizable gap, especially on the penalty kill, but coach Claude Julien has some good options to fill the void. Boston has good balance up front, is getting added offense from the back end from rookie Torey Krug, and still has rock-solid 6-foot-9 Zdeno Chara to clear out the front of the net.
"We have a lot of depth," said center David Krejci, who leads all players in scoring this postseason with nine goals and 21 points. "The organization did a pretty good job. It's hard for the other teams to stop our team because there's my line, [Patrice] Bergeron's line, the third line. The fourth line is playing pretty good hockey in the playoffs as well. It's tough for the other teams, but we have to bring our A game every single night."
Blackhawks: Chicago coach Joel Quenneville jumbled his lines at practice Tuesday at United Center, coming up with new combinations on all four. One of the moves took right wing Patrick Kane off the top unit with captain Jonathan Toews, even though they worked together to great success in the last two games of the conference final. Kane recorded a hat trick in Game 5 against the Los Angeles Kings to win the game and series in double overtime, one-timing a pass from Toews to cap a 2-on-1. Kane was working with Bryan Bickell and Michal Handzus on the second line Tuesday, and Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa flanked Toews. Quenneville is likely going to bench speedy Viktor Stalberg again and replace him on the third line with Dave Bolland, giving the Blackhawks two "pests," he and center Andrew Shaw.
"That's Coach Q to a T," Sharp said of the line shuffling. "He has a great feel for us as players, what we can bring to a particular game, [an] upcoming game. He's done a good job of scouting teams we're playing, looking at different matchups. I think all of us as players, we're comfortable playing with each other. We're used to being thrown around in different combinations and we all trust that Joel picks the right ones."
Who's hot: Kane's hat trick in Game 5 against the Kings gave him four goals in the last two games of that series. Forward Bryan Bickell had points in all five games against the Kings, scoring three goals and adding four assists. … Rask comes into this series after allowing two goals to Pittsburgh in the Bruins' sweep and pitching two shutouts. Bergeron and Brad Marchand each had points in the final three games to close out the Penguins.
Injury report: Campbell (leg fracture) is out for the rest of the postseason for the Bruins. … The Blackhawks report no injuries.