Be sure to check out Blackhawks Insider Tracey Myers' "Six Blackhawks you need to know" over on CSNNE.com.
1. David Krejci is the trigger man for Boston’s offense during the postseason, and leads all NHL playoff players with nine goals and 21 points. He is the playmaking force that centers bookend power forwards Nathan Horton and Milan Lucic, and when they’re going well it leaves all kinds of room, time and space for No. 46 to operate all over the offensive zone. While some of Krejci’s elevated production this spring could be attributed to the thrill of playing in front of a boyhood idol like Marian Hossa, this isn’t the first time Krejci has raised his game during the playoffs.
The 27-year-old also led the NHL with 12 goals and 23 points during Boston’s Stanley Cup run two years ago, and elevates from a solid first line center to a point-per-game offensive superstar during the postseason. He now has 29 goals and 68 points with a plus-32 rating in 74 career playoff games, and will be the top player that the Blackhawks will be looking to shut down once the series gets going.
2. Tuukka Rask was the biggest question mark for the Bruins heading into this season, and he’s answered each of those questions about his abilities as a No. 1 goaltender with a successful exclamation point. During the regular season Rask backstopped the Bruins to a second place finish in the Northeast Division, and finished just outside the Vezina Trophy finalist voting with a 19-10-5 record with a 2.00 and a .929 save percentage along with five shutouts.
But the Finnish netminder truly emerged from Tim Thomas’ shadows during the playoffs, when he outplayed James Reimer and Henrik Lundqvist in the first two rounds, and posted a .985 save percentage against the high-powered Pittsburgh Penguins in the conference finals. His 53-save performance in a double-overtime win against the Penguins in Game 3 effectively broke Pittsburgh’s spirit, and assured that the Bruins would be back in the Cup Final. While Rask doesn’t engage in goalie gymnastics like the athletic Thomas would regularly, the economic Finnish goalie keeps very quiet between the pipes with good positioning quick post-to-post agility.
3. Patrice Bergeron is Boston’s version of Jonathan Toews, plain and simple. Never out of position and always committed to playing at full tilt on both ends of the ice, Bergeron is one of the few NHL centers better than Toews in the face-off circle. As with Toews, Bergeron is also a formidable offensive presence for the Black and Gold, and has been particularly good in the clutch this season. The reigning Selke Trophy winner scored the game-tying and game-winning goals in the epic Game 7 comeback in the first round against the Toronto Maple Leafs, and potted the game-winning strike in double-overtime against the Penguins as well.
He centers Boston’s second line between Brad Marchand and Jaromir Jagr, and plays in every situation for Boston, whether its five-on-five, penalty kill or power play. He forms Boston’s leadership group along with Zdeno Chara, Andrew Ference, Chris Kelly and Shawn Thornton, and is the heart and soul beating inside the Black and Gold dressing room. Bergeron is a born winner, and has won a World Junior title, Olympic Gold and a Stanley Cup championship in his nine-year NHL career.
4. Zdeno Chara is the 6-foot-9 defensive beast of B’s burden that long ago earned the mantle as the game’s best defensive player, and continues to own that role each and every season. He was on the ice for 89 percent of Evgeni Malkin’s ice time in the conference finals, and held him to zero points and a minus-5 in the playoff series. He performed similar shutdown jobs on Rick Nash and Phil Kessel in the first couple of rounds, and it’s more than likely he’ll be locked up with Marian Hossa in the Stanley Cup Finals.
Chara is more than a stay-at-home defenseman, however, and leads all Boston defensemen with 11 points during the playoffs. He has the world’s hardest slap shot clocked at over 108-mph, and is the team’s best penalty killer along with a valued member of the power play. He also gives off an air of intimidation as the single most unique player in the NHL today, and the player opponents least like to play against. It will be a long playoff series for whichever player the Bruins coaching staff deems as Chara’s defensive assignment.
5. Brad Marchand isn’t the biggest or strongest of the Bruins players, but he’s one of the most effective in his role and aggravating pest and offensive force. After failing to score a goal in the first round series against the Maple Leafs, Marchand has scored four goals and 10 points in nine games against the Rangers and the Penguins en route to the Cup Final berth. Marchand is quick, strong on the puck and fearless in going to the danger areas on the ice for a forward who's smaller in stature, and he’ll also factor into the emotional level of both teams.
Marchand is an agitator in the mold of Chicago’s Andrew Shaw, and he’ll attempt to get under the skin of Patrick Kane during the Cup Finals. He was able to aggravate a bevy of Penguins into taking penalties in the conference finals, and embarrassed cheap-shot artist Matt Cooke on a goal-scoring play in Pittsburgh. Marchand and Cooke dropped into a shoving match in Game 2, and just as quickly the B’s agitator left the Pittsburgh forward in the dust by skating to the other end of the ice and sniping a shot over Marc-Andre Fleury’s glove hand. He also made sure to chirp Cooke after scoring the goal. There should be plenty of chatter back and forth between the Bruins and Blackhawks when the "Nose Face Killah" is on the ice.
6. Milan Lucic is the driving force behind Boston’s bullying physicality, and their hearkening back to the Big Bad Bruins days. The 6-foot-4, 230-pound power forward has been voted as the most feared player in the league, and is just as capable of throwing rattling body checks, dropping the gloves in a ferocious show of fighting ability, or scoring a goal as his 30-goal season in Boston’s 2010-11 season would attest. He has combined with David Krejci and Nathan Horton for 19 goals scored and 51 points in 16 playoff games for the Bruins, and is an indispensable part of the Bruins strategy while wearing down opposing defensemen with thumping physicality over the course of a long playoff series.
Lucic had a rough regular season after choosing not to play hockey during the NHL lockout, but he’s been a mean, angry, ornery man among boys since the playoff began. Though Patrice Bergeron scored the important goals in the Game 7 comeback against the Maple Leafs, it was Lucic throwing bodies and winning one-on-one battles all over the ice that helped pave the way for the historic comeback against Toronto.