Earlier today, we had Pez from Days of Y’Orr breaking down the upcoming Stanley Cup Final between the Chicago Blackhawks and Boston Bruins, helping Hawks fans get to better know their opponent from out East.
Madhouse Enforcer: Tuukka Rask has been doing a great impression of Tim Thomas in these playoffs. Does his success come as a surprise to your, or did you always feel confident he could play like this?
Mike: All throughout the season, Tuukka Rask was solid. The difference in his play during the postseason is that he’s actually stealing games for the Bruins, becoming the X-factor for the team’s success.
At first, the comparisons to Thomas’ 2011 postseason (when he had a blistering playoffs en route to leading the Bruins to a Cup victory) seemed like a stretch. Now, it’s totally legitimate. Rask has been tested against teams with much higher-octane offenses than Thomas in 2011. When he gets on a streak, he’s one of the toughest goalies to play against and right now, he has as much confidence as he’s ever had in a Bruins uniform.
After holding the offensively-drive Penguins to just two goals all series, that confidence is only going to grow.
Madhouse Enforcer: The Bruins are known as a feisty team, with plenty of guys willing to mix it up. How important has that tenacity been to the team’s success?
Mike: The Bruins can intimidate their opponents with their toughness and can easily get into their heads. Let’s take Brad Marchand for example. While he is not by any means the toughest Bruin on the roster, he’s done a good job at chirping his opponents just enough to draw penalties.
The Bruins have always had this aura around them that they’re a tough team and with each team they’ve played so far, it’s been obvious at points that Boston has influence d games with this notion. Because the Blackhawks are a quicker team than the Bruins, Boston will have to come out checking hard and often in order to neutralize Chicago.
Madhouse Enforcer: Is there a player on the team’s roster that Hawks fans may not be familiar with, but has been important to the B’s playoff run?
Mike: One of the most unique things about this Bruins team is that any player, at almost any time, can be seen as a threat. How many people had Adam McQuaid pegged to score the game winning goal in Game 4 against the Penguins? Or how about the emergence of Torey Krug and Johnny Boychuck offensively?
Add in the (almost complete) 180 of Milan Lucic’s and Nathan Horton’s game for the regular season, and you have a roster full of skaters who can change the game at any time.
There are some expectancies that should occur as well. Zdeno Chara will play upwards of 20+ minutes a game, every game. Patrice Bergeron will be one of the most important players on the ice, and Rask should continue his dominance.
One player though? No. The Bruins have been a team this entire time, and that’s the reason why they’ve been so successful.
Madhouse Enforcer: What part of the Blackhawks’ game concerns you most as a Bruins fan?
Mike: The Blackhawks have, without question, the closest make-up of a team to what the Bruins have. The challenge for Boston in the Stanley Cup Final is to find ways where they can win the smaller matchups.
Chicago is built so soundly in all facets of the game, and will be the most evenly matched team the Bruins have seen so far. The B’s have a habit of playing up to the level of their opponents, and this Final should be no different. I don’t see a possibility where this series doesn’t go at least six games.
Who wins though? Your guess is as good as mine.
Madhouse Enforcer: What is the one thing the Bruins need to do to win the series?
Mike: Consistency. The Bruins have been playing their best hockey of the year lately, and have been absolutely dominant in all three zones. The Bruins will win the series if they keep the pressure building in the offensive zone and are able to hold the Blackhawks in the neutral zone.
Since the Game 7 comeback against the Maple Leafs (Bruins were down 4-1 with less than 10 minutes left, tied the game in regulation, and won in OT), the Bruins are 9-1. They just have to keep playing the way they have.