First of all, I just love that the 2013 Stanley Cup Final is going to be an "Original Six" series. It is the first time since 1979, so these things are very rare.
If you look at these two franchises and all that they've been able to accomplish, the fact that this is the first time they've met in the Final is crazy. You think of the history of both franchises, and the iconic players who have played in both places -- Bobby Orr is the first one that comes to mind.
It is an unbelievable experience, not only for the players, the coaches and everybody associated with the teams, but the fans and all of us who are fortunate enough to work in and around the game. I think it is going to make for a special Stanley Cup Final.
Looking at Boston, I love the way the Bruins are playing. After they were able to get out of the noose against the Maple Leafs, they've been outstanding. Tuukka Rask has been outstanding the whole time, by the way.
I believe Rask is the frontrunner for the Conn Smythe Trophy right now. You can argue David Krejci, too, but I love the way Tuukka has played. He's been composed, calm, laser-focused, razor-sharp -- he's still technical while being athletic. He's been awesome.
The Bruins' defense is awesome. I asked one of the players on the team who has been the most impressive and he said it actually is the entire defense corps. That says a lot. They have 15 goals from the defense corps, which is pretty amazing.
I love their defense and I love that they're a structured team, but not so much structure to the point where it inhibits their ability to be offensive. They have guys who can score through all four lines.
That top line -- who can stop them? Can Chicago stop them? I guess we'll see. Nobody has been able to defend them. The second line, which was much-maligned early in the playoffs, has been hot lately.
Brad Marchand is a big-game player. Patrice Bergeron is a world-class player in his role. I think it was a great move by Claude Julien to put Jaromir Jagr on the second line. I think he's really added a different dimension, and Tyler Seguin has been struggling in terms of offensive output.
I love the physicality, and I love the power and skill of the Boston team.
Looking at the Chicago Blackhawks, Corey Crawford has been awesome. He's answered all of the questions people had about him coming into the year. He and Ray Emery winning the Jennings Trophy speaks to that, and Corey has continued that through the postseason.
Chicago's defense is very balanced with three good pairs. If Nick Leddy is on your third pair, I think he's an outstanding young guy who has a lot of potential. Michal Rozsival has played very well in that role as well, fitting in very nicely with this group.
I have liked Niklas Hjalmarsson and Johnny Oduya back together as a pair. I think the most important move Joel Quenneville has made is reuniting Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook, for obvious reasons. It is the chemistry they have, the way they read off each other with their positioning both without the puck and then without the puck. I think they've had a huge impact on this team since the middle of that series against Detroit.
Looking at the Blackhawks forwards, it is interesting. I don't think they've gotten the production they expected from a lot of their top guys, but that speaks to their depth. Patrick Kane said any top player is going to be disappointed when they don't produce, but at the same time that hasn't come at the expense of the team.
Everyone else has been able to pick up the slack, and the biggest surprise has been Bryan Bickell. Bickell has been amazing. I think his game is tailor made for the postseason. It is not just his size and his strength, but it is his skills. It is not like he's a guy who is just out there being a bulldozer. He has a lot of finesse, too. He can also think the game.
People always say, "Oh, that guy is just big and strong," but guys like that have to able to think the game well to play with good players. It says a lot about his hockey intellect.
I think the key matchup for me overall is going to be the power and skill of the Boston Bruins against the skill and speed of the Chicago Blackhawks. That is what I think it is going to come down to, ultimately.
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