Stanley Cup Finals: Bruins at Blackhawks: Speed vs. strength tops storylines for final series

2013-06-12T00:00:00Z Stanley Cup Finals: Bruins at Blackhawks: Speed vs. strength tops storylines for final seriesThe Associated Press The Associated Press
June 12, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Hockey fans who endured another lockout are in for a treat that'll cap a sprint of a season.

The Chicago Blackhawks and Boston Bruins are set to compete for the Stanley Cup for the first time in the NHL's first final featuring Original Six teams since 1979.

There have been seven champions in the salary-cap era, and the team that hoists the Cup this month will become the league's only two-time winner of the new era.

Here's a look at five things to watch when the puck drops tonight in the Windy City for Game 1 of what will likely be a long, high-paced, hard-hitting series with a blend of jaw-dropping talent and wince-inducing grit:

Speed vs. strength: Chicago has some of the fastest forwards and defensemen on the planet. Boston, though, is the toughest team in hockey. Something's got to give.

Blackhawks superstar Patrick Kane had a hat trick in his last game; the third goal, 11:40 into double-overtime, eliminated the defending champion Los Angeles Kings in Game 5 of the Western Conference finals.

But if the cat-quick Kane runs into Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara, Kane is in trouble. The 6-foot-9-inch, 255-pound Chara is nearly a foot taller and more than 75 pounds heavier than Kane.

Between the pipes: No one wins a Stanley Cup without a great goaltender - or at least one who is playing great during the playoffs - and both teams have goalies playing their best hockey at a perfect time.

Chicago's Corey Crawford and Boston's Tuukka Rask are 1-2 and 2-1 in two key categories this postseason. Crawford has an NHL-low 1.74 goals-against average, just ahead of Rask's 1.75. The Bruins are still playing in large part because Rask leads the league with a .943 save percentage; Crawford is right behind at .935.

Shining stars: David Krejci has been simply sensational, leading the league with nine goals and 21 points this postseason.

When the Bruins won the Cup in 2011 for the first time since 1972, he led them with 23 points. Krejci is a versatile scorer, who can slap a shot into the net, flick a wrist shot in the blink of an eye or hack at a loose puck in front of the net.

The Blackhawks captain, Jonathan Toews, has only one goal this postseason - ranking 12th on the team - but has tried to make up for it with eight assists and leadership.

Today

• What: Bruins at Blackhawks, Game 1

• When: 5 p.m.

• TV: Channel 4

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