For the first time during the 2013 season, an Eastern Conference team will face a Western Conference team when the Boston Bruins face the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final on Wednesday night.
The similarities between the two clubs' rosters are noteworthy, as both teams have depth throughout their lineups and capable goaltenders acting as the last lines of defense. This dynamic could result in a lengthy series, which many are hoping to see.
Boston enters the contest off a four-game sweep of the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Bruins held Pittsburgh to just two goals over the course of the series, which is an impressive showing considering the offensive talent on the Penguins' roster.
Chicago managed to win the Western Conference, which many believe was the superior to the East this year. Having defeated the defending champion Los Angeles Kings in the West final, four more wins separate the Blackhawks from a wire-to-wire finish as the league's best team.
The Blackhawks will host the first two games of the final. In turn, they will also have last change. Head coach Joel Quenneville has displayed a willingness to alter his line combinations. With that in mind, will he attempt any type of strategic deployment of his combos?
Boston has a formidable collection of players with defensive talent. Captain Zdeno Chara and forward Patrice Bergeron are two prime examples of this. Conversely, Quenneville has Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa. It's likely that Boston will attempt to neutralize these players.
With that in mind, how will the two teams approach matchups in Game 1?
With the NHL season down to its final days, several key players will be logging more minutes than usual. This could especially be true on Wednesday night. With a two-day break between games (Game 2 takes place on Saturday night), the coaches might look to increase their players minutes to draw an early series lead.
Bergeron, Chara, Toews, Kane and Duncan Keith are a few examples of players who might be tasked with some heavy lifting in Game 1. Will we see any unusual ice-time totals because of the scheduling?