Players to watch in the Stanley Cup Final
With Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final between the Chicago Blackhawks and Boston Bruins set to take off at 8 p.m. Wednesday night, there are bound to be some incredible matchups. Here’s a look at some players to watch from each team.
Patrick Kane didn’t score any goals until Game 2 of the conference semifinals, though he had five assists in the first round against the Minnesota Wild. He scored one goal in the next game, but couldn’t get much going after that until Game 4 of the conference finals, when he netted the game-tying goal against the Los Angeles Kings. The next game, his hat trick, including a goal in double overtime, propelled the Blackhawks into the finals. Kane called it the “best game of his career,” and rightfully so — he became only the fourth player in the last 30 years to record a hat trick in a conference finals clinching game. Riding the excitement of a stellar showing in his last game, Kane should be a fun player to watch as he takes the ice in this series. There will also be an interesting rivalry between Kane and Tyler Seguin, who were teammates in Switzerland during the lockout.
Bryan Bickell currently sits on a five-game point streak, scoring seven points in the series against the Kings. He assisted on two of Kane’s goals in Game 5 and has had an increased presence on the ice recently. The left wing has a total of 13 points this postseason, including eight goals after scoring only nine in the regular season. He has been a pleasant surprise for this Chicago offense, and it should be interesting to see if he keeps up this point surge heading into the playoffs.
Corey Crawford, the Chicago goaltender, will be starting his first Stanley Cup Finals game tonight and will be looking to continue his success in the 2013 postseason. During the postseason, he has posted a 1.74 GAA and a save percentage of .935. He gave up 10 goals in the five games against Los Angeles and had to rely on Kane’s 2OT heroics to win in Game 5, but nonetheless, he has handled his goaltending duties well following three straight losses against Detroit. His composure all season has been a major part of the success of the Blackhawks and should continue to be integral in Chicago’s run to the Cup.
David Krejci has no doubt been the best player on offense during the playoffs for the Bruins, netting a team-best 21 points in 16 games. Four of his goals came in the conference finals against the Pittsburgh Penguins, propelling him to an NHL-best nine goals in the postseason. The center only netted 10 goals in 47 regular-season games, but his offense has switched on at a good time for the Bruins. With the help of his also-excelling linemates, Krejci should continue to be critical to the Boston offense in the upcoming games against Chicago.
Brad Marchand has been a key player for the B’s, tallying nine assists en route to 13 points this postseason. He assisted on Boston’s lone and game-winning goal in Game 4 against Pittsburgh. Behind the top line of Nathan Horton, Milan Lucic and Krejci, Marchand has stepped up as necessary. He hasn’t been the headlining scorer by any means, but he’s been quietly effective and that’s just what the Bruins have relied on all season long — their incredible depth.
Tuukka Rask, like Crawford, will be starting his first Stanley Cup Final game ever tonight. If he continues to play like he has throughout the entire postseason — every bit as good as, if not better than, Crawford — it should be an intriguing matchup. Rask allowed only two goals the entire series against Pittsburgh, the top offense in the NHL, and earned a .985 save percentage in that series. Throughout the playoffs, he has compiled a .943 save percentage. Rask, simply put, is in the zone right now, and if he’s able to shut the Blackhawks down anywhere near as effectively as he did Pittsburgh, Chicago will have a rough time taking down the Bruins.