Not much separates the Blackhawks from the Bruins. Both team are four lines deep, are very good at winning face-offs and have tremendous penalty killing, solid goaltending and plenty of star power. So what keys will make a difference for either club?
FOR THE BLACKHAWKS:
DON'T WAIT IN THE WINGS Chicago must get to the inside part of the ice when attacking Boston's net. The Penguins tried but spent much of their series along the wall.
THE POWER OF Z Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara plays a ton of minutes—he's averaging 29:21 in the playoffs, second most in the league. The Blackhawks must find a way to break him down.
PEST CONTROL Chicago's Andrew Shaw and Boston's Brad Marchand both have offensive talent to go along with their unique ability to get players off their games. Shaw must match Marchand's pest quotient without taking penalties.
RISK MANAGEMENT The Blackhawks have to make safe decisions when moving through the neutral zone. One of the Bruins' strengths is their defense between the blue lines, where they force a lot of turnovers.
FOR THE BRUINS:
TRANSITION HOCKEY Offense from the defense will be important for the Bruins. Blueliners Tory Krug and Johnny Boychuk have combined for nine goals in the postseason. That has to continue. If Chara can find a way to get more shots on the power play, that will also make it hard for the excellent Chicago penalty kill.
RIGHT IS MIGHT Boston's rightwingers have to attack the Blackhawks' talented left defensemen, Duncan Keith and Johnny Oduya—no team in the NHL is quicker on that side. The Bruins must not only come at them fast, but they must also hit them as much as possible.
STAR TREATMENT Boston center Patrice Bergeron needs to treat Chicago captain Jonathan Toews the same way Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg treated him in round 2 (and the same way Bergeron treated the Penguins' Sidney Crosby in the last round): rough.
GET PHYSICAL The Blackhawks' robust power forwards caused major issues for Minnesota, Detroit and Los Angeles. Chicago will be far and away the most physical team the Bruins will have played this postseason, and they must be ready.
DAVID E. KLUTHO/SPORTS ILLUSTRATED
MARKED MAN Expect the Bruins to play rough with Toews, but even if they do so, the Blackhawks still have plenty of depth to pick up any lost production.