Ah, it’s rematch time between the Chicago Blackhawks and Boston Bruins – well, kind of.
Let’s face it, comparing their Stanley Cup series to a January regular-season game is comparing golden delicious apples to a slightly bruised orange. There just aren’t the same things riding on the line.
Nevertheless, it should be entertaining hockey. The two matched up well last June, giving us a great six-game series and, for the Blackhawks, an unforgettable ending. So while we dread the thought of another polar vortex – seriously, have you ever hated a two-word combo more than that one? – we bring you the Five Things to watch in this morning’s game.
1. Beware of a motivated Bruins team. This doesn’t go back to last June’s ending as much as it does their recent trend. The Bruins are looking for consistency and, much like the Blackhawks, are looking to build off their last victory. In their case, it was a 4-2 triumph over the Dallas Stars. The Bruins are in the thick of the Eastern Conference race (second with 62 points) and they’d like to improve their standing.
2. Wake up! We’re talking early start here. Eastern Conference teams get their share of late morning/early afternoon games but for the Blackhawks, they’re rare. Players talked yesterday that they’d have to change their normal game routine fast to be ready – “Normally you have the whole day to get your body warmed up. You’ll have to put a little extra work into being ready to go (today),” Duncan Keith said. But as coaches Joel Quenneville and Claude Julien said yesterday, both teams are starting at the same time, so no excuses.
3. Get the third line going. Bryan Bickell got a much-needed goal on Friday night. Kris Versteeg added one before being hurt in a collision with Bickell. The Blackhawks’ third line still hasn’t truly been up and running this season, but this is a game that would suit them well. No time like the present.
4. If you go on the power play, connect on the power play. The Blackhawks are still fourth overall in the league on the man advantage. But of the 15 power-play opportunities they’ve had the past three games, they’ve scored just once. They got away with it against the Ducks and Oilers, not so much against the Avalanche. If Boston gets into penalty trouble, the Blackhawks need to make them pay.
5. Our pick to click: who would be the most awake at this hour? We’re going to go with Marian Hossa. He’s got two young daughters; he’s probably been up and ready for this game for hours now.