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Blackhawks-Bruins Cup Final a clash in styles


Best of seven (all games at 7 p.m.)


Wednesday at Hawks, NBC


Saturday at Hawks, NBCSN


June 17 at Bruins, NBCSN


June 19 at Bruins, NBC

GAME 5 if necessary

June 22 at Hawks, NBC

GAME 6 if necessary

June 24 at Bruins, NBC

GAME 7 if necessary

June 26 at Hawks, NBC

Updated: July 10, 2013 6:51AM

The Blackhawks had little trouble getting past the defensive-minded Minnesota Wild and their backup goaltender.

It took awhile, but they finally solved Jimmy Howard and the Detroit Red Wings’ neutral-zone-clogging style.

Then they made stunningly quick work of seemingly unbeatable Los Angeles Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick.

But by far their toughest challenge awaits in the Stanley Cup Final, likely starting Wednesday at the United Center.

The Boston Bruins are defensive-minded. They have neutral-zone-clogging, backchecking forwards. And they have a seemingly unbeatable goaltender in Tuukka Rask.

While the Hawks surprised many by downing the defending-champion Kings in five games, the Bruins shocked the hockey world by sweeping the mighty Pittsburgh Penguins, holding their potent offense to two goals in four games.

Even Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said he was in “disbelief” that his team’s offense could be so thoroughly stifled.

Rask finished the Eastern Conference Final with a 0.44 goals-against average and a .985 save percentage.

“There’s no question that the performance he put in in this series was elite,” Bylsma said. “He was the difference in the series. There is no question.”

The Original Six matchup of Hawks-Bruins — the league’s first such matchup since 1979 — will be a severe clash in styles, one we haven’t seen all year because the lockout-shortened schedule kept the conferences separate in the regular season.

While the Hawks prefer to play with speed and aggression offensively, the Bruins surely will deploy a similar style against the high-flying Hawks that they did against the high-flying Penguins.

Physical play on the blue line (led by star defenseman Zdeno Chara) and responsible backchecking by the forwards (led by Selke finalist Patrice Bergeron), combined with Rask’s brilliant goaltending, will be the Bruins’ path to its second Cup in three seasons.

Even trade-deadline acquisition and legendary freelancer Jaromir Jagr has bought in to the team’s structured, disciplined system.

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