Photo Credit: www.hockeysfuture.com
WOW! The Florida Panthers made the first “intriguing” pick of the 2013 NHL Draft. It seemed all along that they would take either Seth Jones or Nathan MacKinnon. When MacKinnon went #1 to Colorado it seemed that Jones was the guy who would be playing alongside Erik Gudbranson and the Panthers for years to come. Dale Tallon decided to take his first ever overseas first rounder in Aleksander “Sasha” Barkov who some have described as the most complete player in the draft.

Barkov made his professional debut at 16 for Tappara in Finland. He put up 48 points in 58 games this past season. He seems to be an offensive powerhouse, which will help the Panthers who scored only 2.27 goals per game, which was tied with Nashville for last in the NHL. The Panthers however, passed up on Seth Jones, who at one time was believed to be the consensus #1 overall pick. Jones is 6’4” with great mobility and can also help offensively. Jones was practically gift wrapped for Dale Tallon as Jones could’ve been a star for the Panthers for years to come. Jonathan Drouin was also available, who is a terrific playmaker with great offensive ability. This pick also forecasts the end of Stephen Weiss’s 11 years in South Florida. The Panthers are also believed to be involved in the Vincent Lecavalier sweepstakes as they could use him to help with their lackluster offense. Barkov has been called “the most interesting man in the draft,” and this pick is very reminiscent of that nickname.

Photo Credit: www.nhl.com
There is only one word I can use to describe game 6: Rollercoaster. Game 6 kept going up and down all while putting a pit into every fan’s stomach. The Bruins needed to correct many of their mistakes in order to force a game 7 in Chicago. Unfortunately, they weren’t able to close it out in what was one of the wildest finishes in Stanley Cup Final history.

The Bruins came out with a high intensity as they were putting everything they had into every shift. They succeeded in getting traffic at the net and outshot the Blackhawks 12-6 in the first period. The Bruins would be the first on the board as the Kelly-Paille-Seguin line struck again when Chris Kelly took a one-timer pass from Tyler Seguin and snapped the puck past Corey Crawford’s glove side for the first goal of the of game 6. The Bruins would need to ride this momentum if they wanted to force a game 7.

Little did we know after the first period that this would be one of the craziest games in Stanley Cup Finals history. The captain and former Conn Smythe winner, Jonathan Toews, was able to go five-hole on Tuukka Rask to even the game at 1-1 at only 4:24 in the second period. Like other games in this series the true test of grit came in the third period as both teams battled it out to see who could get the crucial go ahead goal. It seemed like Milan Lucic had the game winner, as he was able to stop a bouncing puck and send it past Crawford at 12:11 in the third. The Bruins picked up some life and Chicago even pulled Crawford as they would make a last ditch effort to tie the game. Bryan Bickell scored the equalizer at 18:44 in the third as it looked like we were headed to the fourth overtime game in the series. With the cup now being polished for a possible Blackhawks victory, David Bolland was able to miraculously sore on Tuukka Rask with only 59 seconds left in the game. This was the clincher for the ‘Hawks as The Bruins couldn’t score on any chances for the rest of the game as they would go on to lose the game and the series.

The Bruins had a remarkable playoff run with the highlight being their game 7 victory against Toronto in the first round. At a time when the city of Boston was still shell shocked from a horrific bombing at the Boston Marathon, this playoff run could not have come at a better time for the Bruins. It also allowed us to see a star emerge in Tuukka Rask who the Bruins will look to sign to a long-term deal this summer. The Blackhawks had been the best team in hockey all season long and played like it in this series. Congrats to the 2013 Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks.

Photo Credit: www.espn.go.com
Game 5 felt a lot like game 3 in many ways. Instead of it being the Bruins who dominated on all fronts, it was the Blackhawks who had this one in the bag from start to finish. Once again Boston’s poor defensive play and inability to pressure the net was their Achilles heal. Another bad break for the Bruins was when Patrice Bergeron went down with an injury. He has been one of the Bruins top 3 players this postseason (along with Krejci and Rask) and if he’s not able to go in Game 6, then the Bruins will have almost an insurmountable task on their hands.

In game 5 Patrick Kane was able to spread his wings again and continue to regain his mojo that he’s had in the previous 3 series. He scored his 8th and 9th goals in the playoffs to help push Chicago past Boston in game 5. Albeit they weren’t “pretty” goals, Kane continued to show why he’s one of the biggest offensive threats in the NHL. He’ll need to have a big game 6 if Chicago wants to hoist the cup in Boston.

The one bright spot for the Bruins in game 5 was once again Tuukka Rask. He’s been at the top of his game all throughout the playoffs and has shown that he’s an upper echelon goalie in the NHL. The two goals he allowed were in large part because Chicago was able to get traffic in front of the net and capitalize on rebounds. Defense has been bringing down the Bruins in the past few games and now their backs are against the walls in game 6. One offensive change that Claude Julien made was scratching the struggling Kaspars Daugavins for Swedish rookie Carl Söderberg. Daugavins had been playing very poorly since he was added to the line up to fill in for Gregory Campbell and it was a smart move for Julien to scratch him for game 5. We’ll see what Claude Julien will do for game 6, and Patrice Bergeron’s status is crucial for the Bruins’ chances of capturing the cup for the 2nd time in 3 years. The puck drops for game 6 at 8:00 Eastern on Monday night in Boston.

Having only scored 1 goal in their past 2 games, the Chicago Blackhawks looked to get their offense going in a crucial game 4. This wouldn’t be an impossible feat as the Bruins defense has been subpar for most of this series and they’ve relied heavily on the superb play of goalie Tuukka Rask.

The game started a little bizarre for the Bruins when in the first period, Tyler Seguin was able to draw the penalty that put the Bs on the PowerPlay, but he then turned the puck over in his defensive zone not long after to allow Michael Handzus score a shorthanded goal. This was the second shorty that the Bruins allowed this postseason as Toronto Maple Leafs forward Tyler Bozak was able to score on the PK against the Bruins in the first round. Rich Peverley was able to wrist the puck past Corey Crawford’s glove side to tie the game at 1 in the first period.

Tonight was the finals breakout game for Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. I’ve been writing all series that they will eventually make a big impact on the offense and they did just that by scoring consecutive goals less than two minutes apart to open up the second period. Toews only had one playoff goal before last night but the former Conn Smythe winner is always a threat as he beautifully executed a tip off a blast from Michal Rozsival. Kane notched his seventh goal of the postseason to extend the Blackhawks’ lead to two but the night had only just begun.

The Bruins were able to find a weakness in Corey Crawford as they scored all five goals to his glove side. The level of difficulty for almost all of the goals was not at the level where only goaltending legends could make the saves. Crawford exposed a major weakness in his game, as it wouldn’t be shocking to see the Bruins go after his glove in games 5 & 6.

This was the third game of the series to go into overtime, which is tied second all time for a Stanley Cup Finals series. Just about halfway through the first OT period, the Bruins once again showed poor defensive play as Brent Seabrook scored his second overtime goal this postseason and knotted the series at two games apiece.

In game 5 each team has things they need to correct. For Chicago, they need to play better defensively and not allow the Bruins to develop plays as much as they do in the offensive zone. Also, Corey Crawford needs some work on his glove side in order to maintain his starting job between the pipes. The Bruins need to work one their defense in many ways. They are executing bad pinches and are letting Chicago get the puck on net WAY too much. They also need to shoot the puck with a little more urgency when in the offensive zone as they sometimes are able to pass the puck around without generating a shot. Game 6 will begin at 8:00 PM ET in Chicago.

Photo Credit: cbssports.com
As the series shifted to Boston, both the Bruins and the Blackhawks were looking to make a statement and take a 2-1 lead in the series. The Bruins looked to correct their horrendous start from Saturday night as Chicago dominated them in the first 20 minutes. Things turned around when Claude Julien mixed up the 3rd and 4th lines by matching Daniel Paille, Chris Kelly, and Tyler Seguin together which gave the Bruins a spark that they needed to tie the game and eventually win it in overtime.

The Bruins came into game 3 looking like a complete 180 of the team that began game 2. They outshot the Blackhawks 11-10 and played excellent defense. Throughout the whole night the Bruins did a good job of making sure Tuukka Rask got clean looks at every shot and they put scoring chances to sleep very easily. Once again, Daniel Paille put a shot past Corey Crawford to open up the scoring for the Bruins at 2:13 in the 2nd period to go up 1-0 in the game. In the past the two games this line has accounted for three very big goals as they have emerged as the X factor in this series.

The Bruins power play, which hasn’t scored in this series since it’s first power play shot, got a little help from a brief 5-on-3 that allowed Patrice Bergeron to get in front of the net and score his 7th goal of the playoffs. This put the Bruins up 2-0 and virtually put the game away for them. They Bruins had the pedal to the metal the whole night outshooting Chicago 35-28 as Tuukka Rask also held the Blackhawks scoreless. Once again neither Patrick Kane nor Jonathan Toews showed up again as they have 1 assist and 0 goals between them in this series. Game 4 is a must win for Chicago as they face going down 3-1 for the second time in the playoffs this year. The puck will drop for game 4 Wednesday night at 8:00 in Boston.

Photo Credit: si.nhl.com
As the puck dropped last night in the United Center, It looked like Game 2 was going to be a long, unpleasant one for the Bruins. After playing a grueling and exhausting triple-overtime game on Wednesday night, Boston came out of the gates slow and sluggish, as it seemed that they were in some pretty serious danger. Chicago started its night with much more aggression and speed that was tough for the Bruins skaters to contain.

The Bruins once again struggled with Chicago’s intense fore-check as the Blackhawks got the puck to the net with ease outshooting the Bruins in the 1st period 19-4. Once again Tuukka Rask played phenomenal in the first period blocking a flurry of shots before Patrick Sharp was able to score on a rebound with many players screening Rask in front of the net. Not long after, there was another play at the Boston net in which the puck looked to have squeezed by the pad of Rask and across the line. However, after much deliberation the refs ruled it a no goal as the Bruins caught a break and remained down by one.

Claude Julien made the coaching move of the night when he moved Chris Kelly and Daniel Paille up to the third line to play with former All Star Tyler Seguin. This helped spark the Bruins offense as they played with much more life in the 2nd period and later into the game. That line was able to create offense in front of the net as Chris Kelly scored his first goal of the playoffs. This in game adjustment immediately paid dividends for Claude Julien as the Bruins tied the game up at 1 and found new life.

The third period was scoreless as the Bruins were able to outshoot Chicago 8-5, but nobody was able to score as the teams were headed to their fourth overtime period in two days. The Bruins looked to have completely shaken off their sluggishness as Jaromir Jagr rang a wrist shot right off the cross bar very early into the period. Both teams engaged in up and down hockey while each team had to make its shift in perfect timing since the benches were located across from the defensive zones. At 13:48 into the first overtime, Daniel Paille was able to get a clean look at Corey Crawford and put the puck right in between the glove and left pad of Crawford to score the game winner. This once again showed that the change that Julien made going into the second period was the X-factor in this game as the Seguin-Kelly-Paille line accounted for both goals in game 2.

The series now shifts back to Boston where both teams will look to take a 2-1 lead in the series. Look for the Blackhawks to keep rushing the puck into the offensive zone, as they will try to get to Tuukka Rask and fire as many shots as they can. The Bruins will need to come into Game 3 with fresh legs that are ready to skate all night long. They can’t afford to be outplayed as badly as they were in the first period of game 2. This is he first time a Stanley Cup final has been tied 1-1 sine 2004 when Tampa Bay beat Calgary in seven games. The puck will drop for game 3 Monday night at 8:00 PM EST in Boston.

Photo credit: csnne.com
The Stanley Cup Final opened in dramatic fashion last night as the Chicago Blackhawks were able to rally back from a 3-1 Bruins lead in order and send the game to overtime where the night would only just begin. Boston came into the series on extended rest after sweeping the top seeded Penguins in the Eastern Conference Final. The Bruins were able to win that series after shutting down Pittsburgh’s big four in Crosby, Malkin, Neal, and Letang. The Bruins would need to do the exact same thing against Chicago, which is also a very deep team who excels in all dimensions of the game. The Blackhawks were able to beat the LA Kings with relative ease as star winger Patrick Kane came alive in game 5 netting a hat trick which sent the defending champs home.

Boston was able to beat the Penguins by playing great defense and having goalie Tuukka Rask play out of his mind for all four games. For the first ten minutes of last night’s game, it looked as if Boston’s defense would grind it out with the Blackhawks during every possession but we all knew that wasn’t realistically possible. Chicago’s great fore-check and excellent 3rd and 4th line play were all indicators that they would be a much tougher match for the Bruins. Boston would need to match Chicago’s intensity and create scoring chances in order to hang with a well-rounded team like Chicago.

The first period started like one of any Game 1 of a playoff series. Each team was feeling out the other’s style of play while nobody wanted to be responsible for giving up the first goal of the series. A little over halfway through, Boston’s top and most consistent line of Krejci, Horton, and Lucic was at it again as they made some passes that would make Magic Johnson proud and Lucic was able to put one past hot goalie Corey Crawford to go up 1-0. The momentum would carry into the second period and not even a minute in, Lucic lit the lamp for the second time that night and Boston had a 2-0 lead.

Chicago did a great job of keeping up the pressure on its fore-check and fearless rookie Brandon Saad helped reignite the United Center with his one-timer snipe from the left circle making the game 2-1. The gritty play would then resume until Patrice Bergeron scored on the first power play shot for Boston, a unit that went scoreless against Pittsburgh. With the lead back at two, Chicago once again, wouldn’t go down without a fight. Andrew Shaw set Dave Bolland up with a long one-timer pass that Rask couldn’t slide over in time to save it and Chicago was able to get the lead back to one. Four minutes later Chicago worked the puck back into the offensive zone and Defenseman Johnny Oduya was able to fire one from the point and the puck took a fortunate bounce off of Andrew Ference’s skate to tie the game up at three goals apiece. This was only just the beginning as some great back and forth hockey was in store for all of us to see.

The overtime periods are what made this game into one of the best (and longest) playoff games in recent memory. Excellent fore-checking from both teams and focused yet relaxed play from both Crawford and Rask highlighted overtime as a whole.  Each team had a number of scoring chances, but players from both teams were willing to put their bodies out on the line in order to win just the first game of the series. Finally, at 12:08 into the 3rd overtime period, Andrew Shaw was the second person to deflect a shot from Michal Rozsival past Tuukka Rask to win game 1 of the series.

Looking forward, the Bruins have been down before in the Finals and came back against Vancouver in spite of a Nathan Horton injury. Horton suffered an upper body injury during a scrum with Niklas Hjalmarsson during the first overtime period. His status is still unknown for game 2 and you can expect to see Jordan Caron put in the lineup if Horton is unable to play. As far as Chicago is concerned, the absence of Kane and Toews from the score sheet is very similar to the way that Boston was able to shut down Crosby and Malkin in the previous series. Chicago’s offensive play should be able to get them more involved as the series progresses. This series has the making of a seven game war before it’s all said and done. The puck will drop for game 2 at 8:00 on Saturday night in Chicago.