BOSTON – While Patrice Bergeron and Jonathan Toews are essentially mirror images of each other, it doesn’t stand to reason that the two Selke Trophy candidates will be on the ice much against each other.
Bergeron and Toews are considered two of the top face-off men in the NHL, perhaps the two best defensive centers in the league, and they also hold enough offensive talent to be consistent threats in the attack zone.
The clutch Bergeron has a pair of overtime game-winners for the Bruins during Boston’s Cup run. Toews has proven to be clutch in his own right, totaling 28 points en route to winning the Conn Smythe Trophy when the Blackhawks won it all back in 2010.
Their defensive skills have served their teams well during the Cup run, as well.
Bergeron was locked in a one-on-one battle with Sidney Crosby for much of the conference finals, and held the Penguins center scoreless.
Meanwhile, Toews was locked down on Los Angeles' Mike Richards and Jeff Carter in the conference finals and appears to share defensive responsibilities with Dave Bolland’s line. Both defensive centers for Chicago, it would reason, are going to be charged with slowing down the line of David Krejci/Milan Lucic/Nathan Horton that’s produced 19 goals and 51 points in 16 games.
Bergeron, Brad Marchand and Jaromir Jagr, on the other hand, can count on being tasked with slowing down Patrick Kane after the Blackhawks sniper caught fire at the end of the Western Conference Finals. He scored four goals in the final two games, and finished off the reigning champion Kings with a hat trick.
It will all depend on which lines the Blackhawks go forward with, of course, but the matchups are already taking shape. Marian Hossa can expect to get a steady diet of his good buddy Zdeno Chara, and it’s likely that playoff sensation Bryan Bickell won’t be a stranger to No. 33, either.
“We have a pretty good idea [about the matchups]. We’ve done our homework, we see what they have. We’re not going in there blindly,” said Claude Julien. “We’re not going in there not knowing what we want to do. I wouldn’t be here if that was the case.
“We have a pretty good idea what we want to do. Whether it works or not, we’ll see. If it doesn’t work the way we like it, we’ll make the adjustments.”
What will be interesting is the number of adjustments and matchups that Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville will make in order to play the puck possession game against the Bruins.
The Penguins couldn’t, or wouldn’t, steer their stars away from Boston’s best defensive players (Chara was on the ice for 89 percent of Evgeni Malkin's ice time while shutting the Russian superstar down).
If things play out that way for the Black and Gold again in the Stanley Cup Finals, they certainly wouldn't mind.