What they’re wearing: Thomas Vanek

What they’re wearing: Thomas Vanek

What they’re wearing: Thomas Vanek

He’s the major piece in the first major blockbuster of the NHL season. Thomas Vanek was shipped to Long Island on October 27 and has plenty of new gear on his hands now that he’s suiting up with the Islanders. Here’s a look at the products that Vanek’s wearing this season.

Skates: CCM RBZ

Vanek, when he’s not using Warrior, is using CCM. He graduated to the RBZ this season after wearing the U+ for the last year or two. Vanek is a sneaky quick player who happens to spend a lot of time in front of the net. He needs a tough, durable skate that’s lightweight and the RBZ meets each and every one of those requirements.

Gloves: Warrior Covert

Warrior’s Franchise line may be the favorite among most players, but the Covert is a very close second. A glove with an anatomic build, the Covert offers a snug fit and excellent responsiveness. Exactly the type of glove a sniper like Vanek would want.

Helmet: CCM V08 with an Oakley Visor

Yet another pro who prefers the traditional VN foam liner to than of the more technologically advanced helmets that are on the market. A number of years ago Vanek was sporting the old Mission Intake before changing over to the CCM in the past few years. It’s hard to argue as the CCM helmet line passes the comfort, protection and mirror tests with ease. Vanek’s Oakley visor is the Pro Straight small. It’s a slightly scaled down version of Oakley’s Pro Straight with a small indent along the bottom edge. It’s not a notch or even curve, but simply a small change of height (more or less) that allows for a very nice field of vision.

Stick: Warrior Covert

If there’s one thing to be said about Vanek it’s that he’s a brand loyal guy. Aside from changing up his helmet brand, he’s been using nearly the same thing for about half a decade. Aside from graduating to new models each year, Vanek has been scoring piles of goals with Warrior sticks dating all the way back to the Dolomite. He’s now sporting the Covert taking advantage of the Dagger Taper technology and Warrior’s growing reputation for building some of the game’s best sticks.

Protective:

It’s hard to make out, but it does appear that Vanek is rocking Warrior’s Covert pant based on the Velcro on the inner thigh. However, it’s just as likely that he’s using an Islanders shell while continuing to use his Sabres pants. If that’s the case he could be in anything from a Warrior Hustler to even another company’s pant.

Leave a comment for us below on some players you’d like to see profiled in the What They’re Wearing section. 

Bauer Hockey Equipment

Highlights of Bauer Hockey’s Spring 2014 product line up include:

BAUER SUPREME SKATE LINE:

Led by the BAUER SUPREME TOTALONE MX3, the new BAUER SUPREME line of skates continues to deliver new levels of skating efficiency with its light weight, anatomical fit and next-generation range of motion technologies. The BAUER SUPREME TOTALONE MX3 features a new FREE-FLEX tendon guard that allows for the maximum range of motion and a new injected one-piece stability lacing system designed for a BAUER SUPREME fit. It also has a 3FLEX TONGUE with CURV® composite inserts that let a player customize the flex and performance of the skate. Like a springboard, the CURV composite inserts respond as a player skates forward. The top five new BAUER SUPREME skates feature the TUUK LIGHTSPEED EDGE HOLDER that allows players to change out broken or dull steel in seconds.

BAUER NEXUS SKATE LINE:

The new BAUER NEXUS skate line combines state-of-the-art technologies with an authentic look and feel. The elite BAUER NEXUS 8000 features a new CURV composite quarter package and a three-piece felt tongue with a high-density metatarsal guard. Its HYDRAMAX 2 liner delivers ultimate comfort and abrasion protection. The top four BAUER NEXUS skates feature the TUUK LIGHTSPEED EDGE HOLDER that allows players to change out broken or dull steel in seconds.

BAUER RE-AKT 100 HELMET:

Available in stores this summer, this revolutionary helmet delivers next-generation protection and enhanced impact management. The RE-AKT 100 features the new SUSPEND-TECH 2 liner system with FLEXORB for superior impact absorption and better rotational management. SEVEN+ embedded in VTX Technology provides optimal impact management for both high and low linear energy impacts.

NEW FULL LINE OF PERFORMANCE APPAREL:

Bauer Hockey unveiled several new lines of apparel, including the first launch of its off-ice training apparel and women-specific base layer, as well as next-generation protective and base layer apparel. This new full line of performance apparel is led by the introduction of FLEXORB and 37.5, which deliver exclusive revolutionary technologies that advance player performance and protection. FLEXORB offers exceptional protective properties and flexibility and will debut in Bauer Hockey’s latest line of protective base layer. FLEXORB is strategically placed in vulnerable areas, such as the clavicle or lower rib area, to complement other equipment. Apparel with 37.5 technology, a state-of-the-art moisture management innovation, uses body heat to quickly evaporate water away from an athlete, allowing him or her to dry up to six times faster. 37.5 technology will debut across Bauer Hockey’s new elite performance apparel line, as well as in certain protective equipment.

BAUER NEXUS STICK LINE:

The new BAUER NEXUS stick line, with its TRU mid-kick flex, is ideal for the player looking for a balanced feel with a quick, effortless release. The BAUER NEXUS 8000 stick features a new POWER SENSE CORE blade that maximizes power and puck feel while enhancing balance and stability. It also includes a PURE SHOT blade profile that reduces the amount of blade deflection – the twisting or opening of the blade while shooting – improving blade control and accuracy. For added durability, the BAUER NEXUS 8000 includes eLASTech Technology, a proprietary resin system that reinforces composite materials and reduces the spread of micro-fractures.

For more information please visit us online at greatskate.com

Let the kids play

Sabres prepared to Start the NHL Season Tomorrow night

Sabres prepared to Start the NHL Season Tomorrow night

The youth movement is on at First Niagara Center. Bolstered by two-straight drafts with a pair of first round selections, the Buffalo Sabres boast one of the NHL’s deepest and most talented prospect pools. And there’s a chance many will see time with the big club right away.

Mikhail Grigorenko, who already played a portion of an NHL season, leads the group as a former lottery candidate and perhaps the most impressive offensive weapon the Sabres own in the entire organization (outside of Thomas Vanek). Girgorenko’s development is a big part of where he ends up in the grand plans of the Sabres, however. He struggled through his first campaign with the team and will need more ice time with skilled linemates in order to progress as a player this year.

Along with Girgorenko’s fellow 2012 first rounder Zemgus Girgensons, Joel Armia (2011 first round) represents two more significant pieces to the offensive future of the organization. A big, talented winger, Armia will look awfully good patrolling the wing with Grigorenko or another top center to his side. Girgensons has proven to be a do-anything center who has also spent time on the wing. He’s a tenacious talent who serves equally well on the power play as on the penalty kill. He seems to have some Chris Drury or Michael Peca intangibles as an effective two-way forward with leadership potential.

In addition to Armia, Girgensons and Grigorenko, the Sabres also have the likes of Johan Larsson, Daniel Catenacci and a handful of other promising prospects set to begin the year in Rochester.

The 2013 first round yielded Darcy Regier a pair of cornerstone defenders to go along with another top talent in Mark Pysyk (2010 first round). Rasmus Ristolainen and Nikita Zadorov have both earned positive reviews throughout camp and the preseason and with Ristolainen already under contract, there seems to be a good chance at least one starts the year in Buffalo.

Based on the direction that Regier seems to be thinking about taking, it might be worthwhile to roll out a majority of Buffalo’s top prospects to start the 2013-14 season. One challenge is finding the space.

On the backend players like Henrik Talliner, Mike Weber and Jamie McBain will all command playing time and finding a way to fit Ristolainen into that mix could be difficult.

Pysyk will almost certainly be amongst Buffalo’s top six when the puck drops on opening night. He showed well last season and seems to have secured a position on the right side of one of Buffalo’s top pairs. Should Ristolainen find a spot, he’d join Pysyk and Tyler Myers as three of Buffalo’s top youthful defenders. Although Myers’ struggles have been an issue in recent seasons, adding that trio with Christian Ehrhoff creates a significant, solid core.

There is a little more wiggle room up front with Buffalo’s four big guns. While Cody Hodgson, Thomas Vanek and other veterans obviously get written into the lineup with pen, there is space for the likes of Larsson and Girgensons to fit in.

I personally like both Larsson and Girgensons together in a third line, two-way role. They both excel at both ends of the ice, they play physically and could eventually grow into a shutdown scoring line. Think of something in the mold of Patrice Bergeron.  While sticking Steve Ott with them would provide more than enough sandpaper, finding an adequate right winger may make more sense. Exactly who fills that role, however may be tough to pinpoint.

While it would be doubtful to see Grigorenko and Armia sitck together for the duration of the year, giving them an opportunity right off the bat would almost be like seeing your future unfold directly before your eyes. Splitting the pair may provide more wiggle room for each to make the roster.

Ultimately, Armia will likely land in the AHL in order to further adjust to the North American game, although don’t be surprised when you see him called up by midseason.  Even with Armia sent to Rochester, here’s a set of lines which I’d like to see the Sabres open the year with should youth be a primary concern (bear in mind that some of these sets my not make the most sense):

Vanek – Hodgson – Stafford

Ennis – Grigorenko – Leino

Ott – Larsson – Girgensons

Foligno – Porter – Kaleta

Scott (extra forward)

What they’re wearing – Derek Roy

What they’re wearing – Derek Roy

What they’re wearing – Derek Roy

For this month’s edition of What They’re Wearing, we take a look at one of the newest members of the St. Louis Blues, Derek Roy. Roy, who spent the bulk of his career in Buffalo, bounced to Dallas and Vancouver last year and signed a new deal in St. Louis this summer.

Roy has been an Easton guy for a number of years and he has become one of their most successful on-ice talents in recent seasons. It’s never a surprise to see him using their newest gear and last season was no exception.

Skates: Easton Mako

Roy was one of many players using Easton’s new, groundbreaking skate last year. A good number of Easton regulars were using the Mako and Roy was wearing it all year. Here’s a solid shot of Roy sporting the footwear.

Derek Roy wears the NEW Easton Mako Hockey Skates

Derek Roy wears the NEW Easton Mako Hockey Skates

Gloves: Easton EQ Pro

Roy’s a playmaker who favors the open mobility of a four-roll glove. The EQ Pro is built with a very traditional construction that doesn’t restrict movement and provides plenty of wrist mobility. While it may not be the best looking glove – very low without any graphics or extra trim – this is a full-nylon glove with quality protection and fit. You can expect to see Roy transition to the new Easton Pro next season like many Easton players did for the end of the year and postseason.

Helmet: Easton E400

This is the more basic VN foam liner model that Easton produces which is appealing to many pros as they often side with the VN built helmets as opposed to some of the more technologically advanced models.

Stick: Easton Stealth RS

It was hard to tell if Roy was using a V9 series prototypes during last season. All photos I found of him had him sporting a Stealth RS model. I think it’s a good bet that Roy will be using a V9E next season as he follows the progression of the Easton product line. The V9 and V9E are now available in stores if you’ve yet to get a look at the newest models.

On the Ice: CCM RBZ skates

CCM RBZ Skate and RBZ Stage 2 Stick

CCM RBZ Skate and RBZ Stage 2 Stick

On the heels of their partnership with Taylor made to release the RBZ stick last season, CCM took a step forward in 2013 in not only revamping the RBZ stick, but introducing the RBZ skate to their line.

When I got around to getting the RBZ skates on the ice, it wasn’t the first time I had a chance to try a pair on. The CCM RBZ Demo Day afforded me a chance to take a spin in the new wheels and helped to inspire me to give the product a closer look.

Finer details of the skate’s design can be found in our product review posted earlier this summer.

Out of the Box

The RBZ is a very good looking skate. It’s a very basic, traditional look that goes light on accents and crazy desgins and heavy on dark colors. It is a nice way to disguise the all-carbon boot as the dark upper just looks like the outside of any old skate you’ve grown up wearing. Upon closer inspection, however, the details of the construction are more evident.

One difference with the RBZ over just about every skate on the market is how big they run. CCM constructed them to fit a little wider which practically sizes them up nearly one full size for most people. I’m anywhere between a 10 or 10.5 in skates and the RBZ I’m wearing are a 9.5. Keep that in mind when you go to try them on.

The wide fit is pretty much uniform through the entire skate and it isn’t reduced until they take a spin in the oven and get laced up the first time. This doesn’t mean that putting them on out of the box gives a deceptive feel, but allowing them to bake and mold will do wonders in the fit and comfort department.

Most other facets of the skate are relatively basic. There’s nothing that stands out in store or even in the locker room in terms of the feel or ascetics. The physical attributes of the skate are another story as the incredible weight savings CCM used are the first thing anyone notices when they hold the skate.

This balance and weight work that CCM put into the RBZ is noticeable on the ice as well, as the skates are barely noticeable at times.

On the Ice

One word of warning on the RBZ skate; wear them around your house a lot. My previous on ice review of the Easton Mako revealed a skate that was pretty much game ready after baking. The RBZ is close but does need a little extra wear before your first ice time. While I didn’t get a chance to break them in further at home, I only experience slight discomfort the first time I got them on the ice.

Another thing that stood out to me was the fit once I was ready to go. The wide fit caused me to lace my skates a little tighter than usual to ensure the fit I have grown accustomed to. However, once I got the skates to a point I liked it was smooth sailing.

Since I’m not an overly fast or quick player, nothing much improves those attributes of my game. Yet, the three games I’ve worn the RBZ for have been ice times in which my cornering and edge work have been improved. While only an ACME rocket would give me more straightaway speed, I feel that my edges and in-tight agility have improved with the skates.

There’s something about the RBZ that makes me feel incredibly comfortable on the ice. While the wide fit was something I had to adjust to, the comfort level of these skates is completely unparalleled. CCM has a full line of skates in the RBZ family and each and every one is worth a long look when you come in to grab a new pair.

Hockey Fitness: Summer Training

Now that we’re officially in the dog days of summer, you’ve probably had plenty of time to spend at the beach, hanging with friends and possibly getting some ice from time to time with friends or even rec teams. But with summer heading towards the finish and tryouts and the regular season closing in, it is time to whip yourself into game shape.

There are a million and one hockey workouts for the summer online and they’re all great. For the most part you can find a host of programs that focus on weight, endurance and cross training to ensure you get a full body workout while you’re away from the rink on a regular basis.

The beauty of a summer workout is that you can vary the exercises you wish to focus on. Is this an offseason where you want to put on solid weight? Are you looking to build explosiveness and foot speed? Or maybe you’re looking to get back into game shape with a simple, well-rounded workout routine.

Regardless of your primary focus, a sound cardiovascular element is vital. Whether it’s on a stationary bike, roller blades, bicycle or jogging, make sure you build in an adequate amount of time for a proper cardio workout. Few things are going to help keep your third period legs fresh than a run or bike ride in the heat of July and August.

Mixing in different cardio elements will aid in building different muscle groups while keeping the primary focus on your cardiovascular health and building some of the endurance you may have lost catching up on the tan you lost during the winter. One other key to your cardio work out is to keep varying levels to the workout. Interval training is a great way to not only maintain endurance but also build explosive and high-tempo bursts (much like shifts in a game) into that training.

As for the weight and strength training aspect, the key is a full body focus. Keep the focus on specific muscle groups and ensure that each day’s workout is collectively going to improve that muscle group. One practice I picked up from working with various trainers is the concept of supersetting work outs.

This may not necessarily be the practice that you wish to pursue, but using a superset workout will not only allow you to mix in multiple exercises at once, but can provide for full body movement as opposed to single-muscle exercises that you may be used to.

The final element, if you hadn’t already worked this in, is core strength and agility. While a lot of agility drills work very well in a cardio setting, they can definitely be done individually and when combined with core strengthening workouts can serve as a tremendous compliment to the typical cardio and strength training programs you’ve used in the past.

Ultimately your summer workout is yours to build. Goalies may be only concerned with lower body focus, cardio and a high level of agility training to increase their side-to-side mobility and effectiveness for the coming season. Maybe some defensemen are trying to add weight and strength for added physicality as their regular season is set to begin. Or perhaps you need to get back in shape and ready for training camp and a full-circuit workout is just what the doctor ordered.

Do your research, see what other players are doing and make sure that you keep a broad focus on the entire practice.

What they’re wearing – Ilya Kovachuk

What they’re wearing – Ilya Kovachuk

What they’re wearing – Ilya Kovachuk

Of all the happenings around the NHL this summer, nothing has been more shocking that Ilya Kovalchuck’s decision to retire from the NHL and return to play for SKA in the KHL. As he departs for Russia, we’ll take a look at the gear he sported in the NHL.

Unlike our first target, Mikhail Grigorenko, Kovalchuk is a very loyal Warrior client who hasn’t been seen in anything but their gear for a number of seasons. Since Kovalchuk doesn’t bounce around with the equipment he uses, tracking his set up was much easier. Here’s what he wore during the shortened 2013 season:

Skates: Bauer Vapor APX

Since Warrior has not jumped into the skate market just yet, Kovalchuk sports Bauer’s APX line for his skates. A popular, lightweight skate, the APX is used by countless professionals and is equally popular in youth and adult rec leagues across North America. No surprise to see a skill player like Kovalchuk in a skate that promotes agility and speed.

Gloves: Warrior Luxe

The Luxe line bridged the gap, in a way, between the Franchise and this year’s Covert line. While Kovalchuk didn’t get into a Covert full-time, the Luxe shares many of the same qualities. A more tapered, anatomically fit glove compared to the traditional four-roll fit of the Franchise, the Luxe provides a little more snug fit which is beneficial for players who like their gloves to respond in unison with their hands. While the Covert has taken up the Luxe’s mantle, you can find the same tapered comfort in Warrior’s new line.

Helmet: Bauer 4500 with Bauer visor

The one Warrior product Kovalchuk doesn’t use is the Krown 360 helmet. He opts for the traditional, low-profile 4500 model which is still prevalent in many areas. The 4500 uses a traditional foam liner as opposed to some of the high-end EPP foams with special inserts seen in such helmets as the Bauer RE-AKT or the Krown. Kovalchuk’s visor appears to be the Bauer J-cut which is very similar to the wave or aviator cut visors on the market but with an additional cut on the side of the visor. It’s a tough visor to find but the Bauer or Oakley aviator cut visors provide the same appearance.

Stick: Warrior Covert DT1 (red graphics)

A truer form of the word sniper may not be known when you consider the type of player Kovalchuk is. He certainly serves as an excellent poster boy for Warrior to show off the benefits of their Covert stick line. Kovalchuk uses a big right handed curve and sports a unique red based graphics package on his DT1.

Beat the dog days with the Great Skate Summer Sale

Great Skate 30th Annual Summer Sale

Great Skate 30th Annual Summer Sale August 1st – 10th, 2013

As the summer days roll along and the temperatures continue to rise, there’s one event on the horizon that will have you thinking of cold, wintry weather in no time.

The 30th annual Great Skate Summer Sale is kicking off on August 1 and will continue through to August 10. The sale is available online, at greatskate.com and at our Buffalo, NY store. In addition to phenomenal deals on this year’s best equipment, you will have the opportunity to demo hockey’s newest releases and take part in a number of exciting giveaways and promotions.

Bauer, CCM, Easton, Reebok and Warrior will each be participating in demo days between August 5 and 9 that will feature each manufacturer’s newest sticks and equipment. Players will have the opportunity to demo the newest sticks which will be hitting the market along with trying on each company’s newest gear between 10am and 6pm each day that the demos take place.

Along with providing a unique demo of their newest equipment and sticks, Easton will also be providing an opportunity for a team to win a full set (18) of Easton composite sticks for the season. All you need to do is provide your full team roster to enter the drawing for the team set.

Bauer is getting in on the fun as well, offering a week’s worth of prizes that run from Monday through Friday and include a Ryan Keseler James VanRiemsdyk and Patrick Kane sticks, a new pair of Vapor APX skates and Friday’s grand prize of Bauer sticks for a year.

The Summer Sale will also feature one of the newest Buffalo Sabres as Buffalo’s own Justin Bailey will be on hand from 5pm to 6pm on August 1. You will have a chance to test your shot against Bailey and see how you stack up against an NHL draft pick.

Bailey won’t be the only competition Summer Sale guests will have for shooting. Warrior is sponsoring the Warrior Hockey Chara Challenge which will be a fastest shot competition with giveaways that include Warrior merchandise and a Dynasty AX1 stick.

In addition to the Chara Challenge, Warrior will be providing one lucky winner with two tickets to the 2014 Winter Classic at the Big House in Ann Arbor, Michigan with $200 spending money and one night’s hotel accommodations for the game.

Be sure not to miss your opportunity to take home any one of the terrific prizes that will be up for grabs while also taking advantage of all the phenomenal deals that will provide up to 80% savings on select items.

The 30th annual Great Skate Summer Sale kicks off on August 1, be sure you don’t to miss a minute.

CCM/Reebok Demo Day: Testing the RBZ Skate and Stick

Demo Day for the CCM RBZ Skate and RBZ Stage 2 Stick

Demo Day for the CCM RBZ Skate and RBZ Stage 2 Stick

The day is nearing in which the hockey world will be graced with the RBZ Stage 2 stick and the new RBZ skates. As the company prepares to launch the next step in a line that has boomed with popularity, Great Skate had a chance to take an inside look at both the RBZ Stage 2 stick and RBZ skate.

A small group of guys got the full treatment from our CCM reps as they had a full lineup of the RBZ skate to choose from and about two-dozen RBZ Stage 2 sticks to choose from. The skate was quite informal, just shooting and passing in warm up suits and eventually things morphed into a center ice three-on-three scrimmage. What I did notice from spinning around the ice is that the RBZ skate is the real deal.

We got a brief rundown of some of the changes and improvements to the RBZ skate as compared to the U+ line that came before it. The RBZ has a full composite boot and is built with a little more pitch for a better angle of attack and increased agility. The skate is also built 4mm higher than previous skates. This factors with the aggressive pitch to give the skater a better radius for tighter turns and cuts.

The composite boot allows for a lighter build that increases your power on the ice. They also run a little larger than you might expect. I’m a size 12 shoe and typically wear a 10 or 10.5 in a skate. The pair of RBZs that I had on yesterday were 9.5 and fit quite well. As a side note, the skates I had were EE width which gave them a little play in the ankle and arch but it wasn’t too noticeable on the ice. There’s no doubt that a slightly more narrow boot would give a more snug fit.

On the ice the skate is light and responsive. I found myself making effortless cuts and I felt that my stride was powerful. I took a few hard laps and in-zone skates during the ice time to see how the skate felt in more of an in-game setting and they were great. Bear in mind that these were basically out of the box and right onto the ice. The wider boot may have factored into this, but I didn’t feel any ill effects from wearing a brand new skate without any sort of break in period.

As for the sticks, I have to say the Stage 2 stole the show. I’ve used an RBZ and I loved the pop that you get off the blade. The Speed Channels aren’t a gimmick and the hot blade they’ve created is something you feel on the ice. The original RBZ did have one drawback and that was the balance. It was a blade heavy stick and there was a strange sensation when using it because of the center of gravity.

With the Stage 2 this isn’t an issue. In addition to a new graphic scheme, CCM worked out the weighting issues so that this already incredibly light stick has the balance and feel you would expect.

I was fairly accurate – or as accurate as I could be – when shooting and the upgraded speed channels gave my slap shot a noticeable pop. When you consider the few shortcomings the original RBZ and factor in the changes made for the Stage 2, the word upgrade almost doesn’t do it justice.

Keep your eyes peeled for the new RBZ skate, Stage 2 stick and the Reebok Ribcor to hit the shelves at Great Skate later this summer. You won’t want to miss out on picking up these new models.

Bruins and Blackhawks square off in Cup Final

Bruins and Blackhawks square off in Cup Final

Bruins and Blackhawks square off in Cup Final

A matchup of two of the last three Stanley Cup Champions isn’t likely to disappoint any hockey fans. Particularly a matchup pairing two teams that were as dominant as Chicago and Boston proved to be this postseason.

Both enter the Finals after quickly dispatching their Conference Final opponents in a much quicker fashion than anyone imagined. The pair of short series should serve both teams well entering the Final as there was less time for a grueling, physical series to drain one or the other.

At this point, both teams have endured their own battles to reach this point. Both were staring at overtime in game seven before squeezing past in getting in place to play for the Cup.

Boston’s run has been particularly effective as they’ve gotten very consistent scoring from each of their lines and despite the loss of Gregory Campbell, they remain a very tough team. Zdeno Chara has been a minutes hog while Tuukka Rask has been absolutely phoneomenal along the way.

Chicago enters the series with a few key contributors beginning to heat up. Patrick Kane’s recent hat trick was accompanied by a pair of assists from Jonathan Towes. Corey Crawford has been very strong in net and Chicago’s defense has been nearly as good as any one else.

Winning this series will be no treat and I believe that after a short Conference Finals series killed some of the momentum coming off previous rounds.

Keys for Boston

Exert your influence: The Bruins managed to get the Penguins running around thanks to their physical play. While the Blackhawks are a more physically engaged team, there is still a difference between the Burins and Blackhawks makeup. If the Bruins can set the physical tone, they may push Chicago off their game plan.

Tuukka Time: Tuukka Rask has been unreal. He had a few ugly goals against in the first round but has remain nearly perfect since then. He’s gotten hot at the right time and the Bruins are beneficiaries.

Win the line matching: I think you’d be hard pressed to find a better pair of two-way forwards than David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron. They’re phenomenal shut down players and both of their lines are equally dangerous defensively as they are at scoring. If they can get the matchups they want here, these two lines will have a field day.

Z-Factor: I don’t know if Kane, Toews, Hossa or someone else will get a steady diet of Chara, but he’s been the one to neutralize the opposition. If Chara is successful in silencing a line, the Bruins will be at an advantage.

Keys for Chicago

Special Teams: Both Boston and Chicago have been near perfect killing penalties. The Blackhawks need to find a way to score some power play goals while continuing to keep the Bruins up-and-down power play shut out.

Smart matching: Considering that Zdeno Chara will have the opportunity to match one of Chicago’s lines (plus the threat of Bergeron’s line), the Blackhawks will need to find a way to generate consistent if one of their top lines has been neutralized.

Depth matters: Bryan Bickell’s scoring surge has been welcome in the Windy City. Between Kane, Sharp, Hossa and Bickell, the Hawks have a solid set of scorers heading into this series. The type of depth scoring that Bickell represents will be a major part of any success the Blackhawks have.

Net protector: Corey Crawford has been awesome. That doesn’t mean I still don’t know how much confidence I have in him. Perhaps I’m a naysayer, but I still get a little nervous watching him. If Crawford maintains and the Hawks shelter him well, they could be in business.

Outcome: I have a strange feeling that the Bruins win in 7 in this series. I just think they’re too defensively sound and have too much size for the Hawks to counter.

Stanley Cup 2013

NHL Stanley Cup 2013