Blackhawks vs. Bruins: Unsung Heroes Who Will Decide Stanley Cup Final

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured Columnist IVOctober 28, 2016

CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 07:  Andrew Shaw #65 of the Chicago Blackhawks celebrates a first period goal against the Nashville Predators at the United Center on April 7, 2013 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The Stanley Cup Final features countless superstars this season, as the likes of Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Zdeno Chara and many others will surely need to have strong series in order for their teams to thrive.

At the same time, players who aren't at the forefront of people's minds often make the biggest plays.

That was the case in Wednesday's Game 1, as Chicago Blackhawks forward Andrew Shaw beat Boston Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask by deflecting a Michal Rozsival shot in triple-overtime.

Any skater on either team could have been the hero in Game 1, but one of the unlikeliest scorers ended the contest. Shaw's goal won't be the last time that an unsung player comes through with a big play, so here are three unheralded competitors who will ultimately decide the series.


Andrew Shaw

Fittingly, Shaw tops list following his massive Game 1 goal, which put the Hawks in the driver's seat.

Shaw is no pushover, as the second-year player racked up nine goals and 15 points in 48 games during the regular season, but he doesn't receive a lot of hype on team with offensive stars such as Toews, Kane, Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp.

He proved on Wednesday that he has a flair for the dramatic, though.

Shaw has been a strong producer throughout these playoffs, with nine points in 18 games, and his goal in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final was easily the biggest tally of his young career.

Shaw technically plays on Chicago's third line, but he, Brandon Saad and Dave Bolland are expected to contribute on both ends of the ice. Shaw contributed a goal and an assist in Game 1, so he is now an offensive threat that the Bruins have to account for.

Even if he doesn't score another point in the entire series, however, he can still make an impact. He is a very pesky player who hits and plays a strong defensive game as well, so he will most definitely get under the Bruins' skin if he hasn't already.

Players like Shaw always excel in the playoffs and he is no different.


Torey Krug

The Bruins may be the best defensive team in these playoffs, but there is one obvious weak link that must be addressed. That weak link is clearly Torey Krug.

The 5'9" defenseman played in just one regular-season game, but he has played quite often throughout the playoffs with 10 appearances. Krug has definitely had some good moments, but he has struggled at certain points as well.

Krug made a big error during Wednesday's Game 1, as he attempted to clear the zone with the Bruins leading 3-1 in the third period. Shaw intercepted his pass and found Bolland, who made it 3-2. Johnny Oduya scored soon after and Chicago went on to win the game in overtime. noted that Rask was especially critical of Krug's turnover, calling it "terrible."

Krug does have four goals and six points in 10 games, though, which is quite productive for a defenseman. Because of that, head coach Claude Julien may very well stick with him in Game 2. However, he can't be afraid to use him if he is in the lineup, as rotating defensemen is hugely important.

For better or worse, the Bruins are committed to Krug and he is sure to be in the middle of some big plays moving forward.


Dan Paille

If the distinction doesn't belong to the Blackhawks, it can definitely be argued that the Bruins have the deepest forward corps in the NHL. The Bruins receive production from all four lines and have a number of players who have scored 20 or more goals in a season on their roster.

Because of that, it's easy to look past a heart-and-soul player like Dan Paille.

Paille plays on Boston's fourth line alongside Chris Kelly and Shawn Thornton, so he isn't used as often as some of the other forwards on the team, but he has a defined role.

He is a solid penalty killer and loves to set the tone with his forecheck, just as he did against the Blackhawks in Game 1.

While Paille isn't a prolific scorer, he has scored at least 10 goals in a season four times and seems to have a knack for scoring at opportune times. He is also a very difficult player to play against, as he wears down opposing defenses with his aggressiveness.

Softening up the defense makes it easier for Boston's big guns to roam free and score goals, so Paille must continue to play his game throughout the series.


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