BOSTON – The Bruins finished up their first Sunday afternoon practice at TD Garden with the knowledge the Blackhawks will be their Stanley Cup Finals opponent, and there was excitement in the air.
There was also knowledge that things will be a little different than they were two years ago in the Finals against the Vancouver Canucks.
First off, the Bruins didn’t get a chance to play the Blackhawks during the lockout-shortened 48-game regular season. Secondly, it will be a much easier travel schedule than the three cross-continent flights to Vancouver they in the span of 11 days back in 2011.
The Bruins coaching staff hasn’t yet developed a fully-formed game plan for a Blackhawks team that mirrors the B's in that they are solid both offensively and defensively. Chicago also has the same kind of depth and toughness the Black and Gold features.
The Bruins know all about Chicago’s breathtaking 21-0-3 start to the NHL season, and what the Blackhawks can do once they get on a roll.
“You can say we don’t know the Blackhawks, but it’s pretty obvious they’re a great team,” said Zdeno Chara. “They’re a very strong lineup. In all of the media coverage that both teams get in their cities, it’s not like we won’t be prepared for each other.”
So the Bruins were excited to get ready for the commencement of the Cup Finals on Wednesday night, but not quite so forthcoming with their personal scouting reports on the Blackhawks as the Boston coaching staff hashes out their game plan for the series.
“Other than what we’ve seen on TV, we don’t know much about them other than that they’re a really good hockey club,” said Milan Lucic. “They’ve probably been the most consistent team since the start of the season, and that’s probably why they won the President’s Trophy this year.
“Once again, for the fourth time saying it, it’s another chance to be part of something special here, and a chance to be a part of an Original Six series, and get to be part of another Stanley Cup Final. I think it’s the first Original Six Final since 1979, so we’re looking forward to getting it started. There is a lot to look forward to.”
As Lucic was dropping the information nuggets to a media crowd surrounding him, Andrew Ference and Brad Marchand were smiling in the background yelling “That’s it, Bobby” and “Thatta boy, Bobby!”
Lucic’s Bruins teammates have begun calling him the Bruins’ version of TSN's Bob McKenzie this season because the Boston power forward seems to know the stats and inside info on every player in the league.
So at least the Bruins were keeping the mood light knowing that business -- and a loaded, confident Blackhawks bunch -- awaits.
The Blackhawks are sixth in goals for (2.76) during the playoffs and third in goals against (1.94), and have star power in Jonathan Toews and Pat Kane along with Duncan Keith, Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp. So in some ways the current edition of the Blackhawks reminded the Bruins of the Penguins team they just dismantled in four eyebrow-raising games. But Chicago is also blessed with a stronger defense, better goaltending, and more of a willingness to pay the price around the net.
In other words, they’re like the Penguins, except significantly better.
“There’s a lot of similarities to the team we just played: a highly potent offensive attack and quick D-men that make good, strong, hard plays and [Corey] Crawford has played well for them all year,” said Lucic. “They’ve shown that they’re a complete hockey club, and they’re a great team. There will be a lot going into the next few days of preparation.”
So do the similarities between the Penguins and Blackhawks mean that Boston will take the same approach to Chicago as they did to Pittsburgh, when they thoroughly shut down Sidney Crosby and Co. to historic proportions?
That remains to be seen because the B’s weren’t going to tip their hand before the Finals get started for real in the Windy City on Wednesday night.