Leading up to Wednesday's Game 1, Puck Daddy is previewing every facet of the Stanley Cup Final between the Chicago Blackhawks and Boston Bruins — on the ice and off the ice.
The movie “P.C.U.”, which was released back when Jeremy Piven had his own hair, gave the world the Caine-Hackman Theory, which stated that “no matter what time it is, 24 hours a day, you can find a Michael Caine or Gene Hackman movie playing on TV.”
In discussing the defensemen for Boston Bruins and the Chicago Blackhawks in the Stanley Cup Final, we’d like to offer the following offshoot of that theory: “No matter what time it is, 24 hours a day, Zdeno Chara is probably eating up ice time.”
Chara is averaging 29:21 per game for the Bruins, a total that includes five overtime games including that double-OT classic against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 3 of the conference final. It’s over five minutes more than the second-highest ice time leader for the Bruins in Dennis Seidenberg (24:10) and higher than Chara’s average when Boston won the Cup in 2011 (27:39).
Does Zdeno Chara automatically give the Bruins the nod for best defense corps in the 2013 Stanley Cup Final?
Duncan Keith has been a force defensively and offensively for the Blackhawks. He’s averaging 25:42 TOI per game and has 11 points in 16 games. He had 17 points in 22 games during the Blackhawks’ Cup run in 2010. His defense partner Brent Seabrook (21:55 TOI) has had an inconsistent postseason, but his one shining moment was awfully bright: The Blackhawks’ overtime, series-winning goal against the Detroit Red Wings in Game 7.
Niklas Hjalmarsson has continued his outstanding season in the playoffs, skating 22:13 TOI and playing to a plus-10 for the Blackhawks. His solid defensive play allows puck-mover Johnny Oduya to push the tempo, scoring two goals and adding three assists thus far.
Nick Leddy has struggled in the postseason, skating to a minus-7 with just two points in 17 games. His ice time reflects it: 15:23, down from his average of over 17 minutes a night in the regular season. His partner is veteran Michal Rozsival, who has played well in averaging 18:30 per game. Sheldon Brookbank saw one game of action when Keith was suspended for his hit on Mike Richards, and was pretty terrible.
Chara and Seidenberg are the best shutdown duo in the NHL, having humbled the Penguins’ big guns in the conference final. Chara is having a Conn Smythe worthy run, with 11 points in 16 games and a plus-12. Seidenberg is a plus-6.
Even if teams can avoid Chara and Seidenberg, the Bruins can roll out an outstanding second unit of Andrew Ference and Johnny Boychuk, a physical pairing that has featured surprising offense from Boychuk (5 goals).
Rookie Torey Krug has been a sensation this postseason for Boston with four goals, three of them scored with his cannon of a shot on the power play. Adam McQuaid has been more active offensively too with two goals in 16 games. He’s a plus-8.
The Bruins showed impressive offensive depth earlier in the playoffs when Ference, Wade Redden and Seidenberg were all injured. Should they face that adversity again, players like Matt Bartkowski and Dougie Hamilton will be ready.
Chara is the best defenseman in the series, and overall the Bruins’ blueline has punished opponents while serving up some offensive highlights. If the groove they were in against Pittsburgh continues into the Stanley Cup Final, Tuukka Rask will be a very happy netminder.