Stanley Cup Final: Blackhawks, Bruins set for NHL championship series (+video)
The Boston Bruins and the Chicago Blackhawks meet in the Stanley Cup Final, the National Hockey League's version of a championship. It's a best-of-seven series, starting Wednesday night in the Windy City.
For the first time in 34 years, the National Hockey League (NHL) will have two "Original 6" teams playing for the championship. "Original 6" refers to the six NHL franchises in existence before the league began westward expansion in 1967.
The last time Original 6 teams played for the championship was 1979, when the Montreal Canadiens defeated the New York Rangers, four games to one.
The Bruins and the Blackhawks start this quest for the Stanley Cup Wednesday night in Chicago, where Games 1 & 2 will be played. The scene shifts to Boston for Games 3 & 4 next week.
For the visiting Bruins, the offense starts with center David Krejci and the defense ends with goalie Tuukka Rask. Krejci, from the Czech Republic, leads all players in playoff scoring with nine goals and 12 assists.
Rask, a native of Finland, has a playoff-best save percentage of .943 in goal for the Bruins during the 2013 NHL playoffs.
"He's been arguably our best player this far," Boston forward Milan Lucic said after the Bruins arrived in Chicago on Tuesday, "and I hope he can keep it up."
Six-foot, nine-inch Zdeno Chara captains the team as well as Boston's defensive corps, which has shown some energy moving the puck into the offensive zone during the playoffs.
They have beaten the Maple Leafs, Rangers, and Pittsburgh Penguins to reach the finals for the second time in three years. Boston last won the Stanley Cup in 2011.
Chicago was tied with Pittsburgh for the best regular season record with 36 wins in a lockout-shortened schedule of 48 games. The Blackhawks feature a glut of goal-scorers this playoff season. Patrick Sharp and Bryan Bickell have each scored eight goals, while Marian Hossa and Patrick Kane have combined to score an additional 13 goals.
The Blackhawks were Stanley Cup champions just three years ago. Kane, who scored the Hawks' Western Conference series-winning goal, reflected on 2010 as he prepares for this year's battle.
"I think a lot of us that were here in 2010, we consider we're better players now. I myself feel that I'm a well-rounded player, got a lot better defensively and without the puck as time has gone on," Kane told reporters Tuesday in Chicago. "I feel like I'm more focused about hockey now. Like I said, I'm going to soak it all in, but at the same time take advantage of the opportunity."
The Blackhawks have a formidable defensive unit, led by Duncan Keith, that can push the puck up ice to the attacking forward lines. Corey Crawford has been successfully backstopping the Chicago club in goal.
Chicago dispatched the Minnesota Wild, the Red Wings, and the Los Angeles Kings to get to the Cup final. The Stanley Cup Final will be televised on NBC, beginning at 8 p.m. Eastern time Wednesday.