Will Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews Be Zdeno Chara's Next Superstar Victims?

Steve SilvermanFeatured ColumnistJune 11, 2013

BOSTON, MA - JUNE 05: Chris Kunitz #14 of the Pittsburgh Penguins skates with the puck as Zdeno Chara #33 of the Boston Bruins defends during Game Three of the Eastern Conference Final of the 2013 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the TD Garden on June 5, 2013 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The Boston Bruins are hoping that they can continue the kind of defensive run they got on in their four-game sweep of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The offense was fine, as the Bruins scored 12 goals, but the defense put on an off-the-charts performance. The Bruins limited the Penguins to two goals throughout the series, holding Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin scoreless.

Zdeno Chara, the Bruins' captain, played a huge role in shutting down the Penguins' best players. He lectured Crosby when he seemed to lose control in Game 1 of the series, and he used the back of his arm to block Malkin's desperation shot at the end of Game 4 to ensure the Bruins' sweep.

In between, he helped smother the Penguins' offense.

Now Chara has another job in front of him against the Chicago Blackhawks' gold dust twins, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane.

Toews is the Blackhawks' captain and their best all-around player. He is superb on the defensive end and he is a warrior on the offensive end. Toews will go to the front of the net, take a pounding and still find a way to make plays. He is also an accurate passer with a crisp shot.

However, his production has not been where the Blackhawks need it to be if they are going to come away with the Stanley Cup. Toews has one goal and eight assists in 17 games, along with a plus-four rating.

Kane has not enjoyed the most consistent playoff run. He endured a seven-game goalless streak prior to scoring a goal in Game 4 against the Los Angeles Kings and a hat trick in Game 5. He has scored 14 points overall in the playoffs and is tied for the team lead in scoring.

However, if Chara and the Bruins could shut down Crosby, Malkin and the Penguins, shouldn't they be able to shut down Toews, Kane and the Blackhawks?

Not so fast.

It may not be quite so easy for Chara and his teammates. Kane is a much different kind of player than anyone Chara has seen thus far in the playoffs.

Kane is all about speed and quickness. He is never in one place. He will dart in and out of traffic and he is not going to make himself a target for Chara to pound.

That's a good thing, because Chara is 6'9" and 255 pounds, while Kane is 5'11" and 181 pounds. With a 10-inch height advantage and a 74-pound weight differential, it's obvious that Kane is not going to want to go into the corner and confront Chara.

Toews is not putting the puck in the back of the net, but he has picked up his playmaking. He goes into the Stanley Cup Final with a bit of momentum after registering two assists in his last game.

He knows that Chara is an imposing opponent, but he also believes it's not always about what an opponent's defense is doing.

‘‘I think Kaner will agree that once you see one puck go in . . . it helps a lot with your confidence," Toews told Mark Lazerus of the Chicago Sun-Times. "It just helps you relax every time you get the puck afterward. It’s definitely a good feeling to see a few pucks go in these last couple of games.’’

Kane and Toews stepped up their production once Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville reunited them against the Los Angeles Kings. NBC hockey analyst Pierre McGuire told WEEI-AM radio in Boston that he thinks the Blackhawks would be best served by keeping them together.

“Kane’s at another level because he’s playing with Toews,” McGuire said. “Kane is really good, don’t get me wrong. He is one of the pure finishers in the game today, a lethal scorer. But he needs someone to get him the puck. He’s not going to go get the puck very often, he needs somebody to get it for him. And the guy that gets it for him is Jonathan Toews."

Chara (two goals, nine assists, plus-12, averaging 29:21 of ice time per game) is not just an imposing figure who is going to intimidate the best players on the Blackhawks' roster. He's one of the smartest and most skilled defenders in addition to his overpowering physical presence.

McGuire said that as good as Chicago's defense is with Duncan Keith leading the way, and that despite all the speed that the Blackhawks have on defense, no team has any defenseman similar to Chara.

His presence gives Boston a unique edge that Chicago's speedy duo is going to have to find a way to overcome if they are going to be successful.

Kane and Toews present another challenge for Chara. He's been up to everything he's had to face thus far in the postseason, and he should be able to finish the job against the very talented Blackhawks' stars.