The Bruins and Blackhawks haven’t played each other since Oct. 15, 2011, but that doesn’t mean the Hawks aren’t aware of what the Bruins are capable of doing.
The last time these two teams met was just five months to the day that the Bruins won the 2011 Stanley Cup, and when they finally meet again it will be for the 2013 Stanley Cup. So it goes without saying that the Blackhawks know what they’re up against with the Eastern Conference champion B’s.
“They’re playing well right now, they’re on a roll,” Chicago head coach Joel Quenneville said at media day Tuesday. “They’ve got a lot of options. They check well, they’re a very patient team and they’re strong in all zones. They’ve got some guys who can make plays and some good point shooters as well. We’ve got to make sure we play our game and recognize that we’ve got to be at our best in this series.”
The Bruins provide a daunting challenge for any team they play. They boast a sound defense, limit chances and are among the best 5-on-5 teams in all of hockey. The Blackhawks need to look no farther than the Bruins’ dismantling of the Penguins in the Eastern Conference finals. The Bruins limited Pittsburgh, who came in with the league’s best offense, to just two goals in a four-game sweep. That included slowing down the league’s best 1-2 punch in Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. The Hawks’ combination of Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane will certainly be eyed by the Bruins, and those matchups might swing the series.
“It’s a team that’s very good as a five-man unit,” Kane, Chicago’s leading playoff scorer, said. “They really skate up and down the ice well together, you always see five guys in the picture all the time. You can’t have too many turnovers on them because they’re so good, no matter what line it is, transitioning the other way.
“It’s gonna be a tough series, we know that. They obviously played great against Pittsburgh and didn’t give up many goals or chances, too. At the same time, you’ve got to look at what we can do as a team. Hopefully that’s score some more goals and get some more chances offensively and control the puck like we have all year. But by no means is that going to be easy.”
In this day and age, with wall-to-wall media coverage aiding advanced scouting and statistics, it does take the mystery out of preparing for a team to an extent. The Blackhawks are confident they’ll be able to formulate a gameplan based on what they’ve seen from video, scouts and stats, but they won’t know for sure until the puck drops Wednesday night in Chicago.
“I think [there's] probably a lot of unpredictability in everyone’s mind about how it’s going to play out,” Quenneville admitted. “I think with video and watching hockey and scouts and people you talk to in the game, you’ve got a pretty fair assessment of how they’re going to play. It’s a pretty straightforward game and we’ve got to play to our strengths and realize what they’re capable of as well.
“I think it’s going to be a great matchup. They’re playing extremely well and we’re happy to be a part of it. The unpredictability in the first period may sort itself out right off the bat and then we’ll probably get a little more familiar with what will happen after that. We certainly have a lot of respect of what they’re capable of doing.”