Stanley Cup Final, Blackhawks vs. Bruins: Scouting the forwards


Both the Blackhawks and Bruins are extremely deep at the forward position. Which team is stronger?

Depth is a trait shared by the Boston Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks that will be on display in the 2013 Stanley Cup Final. Both teams have a wealth of talent in their forward groups that will allow the head coaches flexibility when choosing their groupings.

When looking at Boston, Claude Julien has only had to make minor alterations to his top-six. Pairing Jaromir Jagr with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand while moving Tyler Seguin onto a line with Chris Kelly and Daniel Paille was one change. Following Gregory Campbell's broken leg, Julien moved Kelly onto the 'Merlot Line' with Rich Peverley and Shawn Thornton while inserting Kaspars Daugavins onto the Seguin and Paille line.

The team's line of David Krejci, Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton has remained a constant in the 2013 playoffs. The three players have generated the highest point totals on the Bruins (Marchand is tied with Lucic at 13 points), while Krejci leads the team in every major offensive category (nine goals and 12 assists for 21 points). Krejci also carries the league lead in scoring into the series. The last time he finished with the most points in the playoffs, the Bruins won the Stanley Cup.

Joel Quennville has tinkered a bit more with the Blackhawks roster and will seemingly continue to do so heading into the Final. Quenneville loaded up his starting line for Game 5 of the Western Conference Final when he paired Patrick Kane with Jonathan Toews and Bryan Bickell. Bickell has been on fire in the playoffs and is tied with Patrick Sharp for the second most goals amongst all playoff performers. Considering he will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason, many believe Bickell stands to command a hefty raise come July 5.

In the deciding game of the Western Conference Final, Sharp spent time with Marian Hossa and Michal Handzus, while Andrew Shaw was paired with Dave Bolland and Marcus Kruger. Brandon Saad and Viktor Stalberg were situationally sprinkled with a rotating sequence of partners (of course, other players also spent time with multiple partners as well).

What is always interesting to pay attention to is the line matching that occurs. Boston is likely to keep their groupings together. Where the Bruins strategy comes into play is their use of Bergeron and Zdeno Chara. When on home ice, Julien might elect to use the two together to shut down the Blackhawks top scoring line. Of course, given the flexibility Quenneville has with Hossa, Kane, Sharp and Toews, it might be difficult to isolate one line (the same was true heading into the Pittsburgh series, though, and the Bruins handled that fairly easily).

Conversely, Quenneville has just as many options to match up against Boston's groupings when they have home ice, which gets to the root of the series. Both teams have depth. Both teams have talent. Both teams have experience.

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