Both the Blackhawks and Bruins have deep offensive attacks, but could the 2013 Stanley Cup Final be primarily a defensive series?
Chicago finished the 2013 regular season with the fewest average goals against of any other team in the league, holding their opponents to 2.02 goals per contest. The Blackhawks improved upon that mark in the postseason by allowing an average of 1.94 goals against per game, third best of the 16 playoff teams.
Conversely, Boston finished the regular season with the third fewest goals against per game with an average of 2.21 per contest. In the playoffs, the team held opponents to 1.88 goals against per game, which was the best showing of all playoff teams. This performance included a stunning showing in the Eastern Conference Final, when the Bruins held the Pittsburgh Penguins to a total of two goals over the course of a four-game sweep.
More impressive than the sweep was the Bruins ability to stifle one of -- if not the most -- potent rosters in the NHL. Boasting a lineup that included the likes of Evgeni Malkin, James Neal, Jarome Iginla, Kris Letang and Sidney Crosby, the Penguins had recorded at least three goals per game in all but one contest prior to facing Boston and had registered four goals or more in all but two contests. Meaning, Pittsburgh was generating a ridiculous amount of production before Boston completely shut them down.
In a general sense, the Bruins have a deep team. This is especially true on defense.
During their semifinal series against the New York Rangers, Andrew Ference, Dennis Seidenberg and Wade Redden were unavailable due to injury. In their place, head coach Claude Julien was able to insert Dougie Hamilton, Matt Bartkowski and Torey Krug. With Ference and Seidenberg back in the lineup, the Bruins will have Bartkowski and Hamilton available in the event of injury or suspension.
In addition to their depth, the Bruins have a starting lineup that includes Adam McQuaid, Johnny Boychuk and captain Zdeno Chara. As a whole, the group is a dominating collection. Chara on his own is a force to be reckoned with and the Blackhawks top players will likely get a steady dose of him, as he is averaging 29:21 minutes per game. That total is likely to go up over the course of this series.
Of course, Chicago's defense is certainly on par with the Bruins. Led by Duncan Keith, the defense corps is comprised of Brent Seabrook, Johnny Oduya, Michal Rozsival, Nick Leddy and Niklas Hjalmarsson. While Keith records the most ice time on average (25:42), the team has a balanced approach to time allocation. However, the Blackhawks don't have as much depth as the Bruins (beyond their top-six). This was on display when Keith was suspended in the Western Conference Final and Sheldon Brookbank drew into the lineup. Brookbank struggled in his lone performance of the playoffs and only recorded 6:50 of ice time. In the event of injury or suspension, the Blackhawks could find their defense corps at a disadvantage. At the very least, head coach Joel Quenneville would be forced to rely heavily upon his regulars.
All things considered, the Final has the potential to have a defensive overtone. Both teams have the personel and talent to tighten things up. This extends beyond their defense corps into the responsibility of the forward groups, as well. However, both teams also boast a wealth of offensive talent and have the ability to produce, which makes gauging this series difficult.