Bruins vs. Blackhawks: Biggest Early Disappointments of 2013 Stanley Cup Final
We are now three games into the 2013 Stanley Cup Final between the Boston Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks, and the list of players whose performance has disappointed is surprisingly long.
Since the triple-overtime thriller to begin the series, the top-six forwards on both sides have failed to make a strong impact, especially offensively.
Bottom-six scoring has played a major role in the outcome of the three games, which has put a lot of pressure on star players such as Patrick Kane and Brad Marchand not living up to expectations.
Let's look at the biggest early disappointments from the first three games of the Cup final.
Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks
Patrick Kane has the most offensive skill and creativity of any player in the Cup final, but he's been completely ineffective against the structured Boston defense.
The speedy winger has demanded the puck in this series, but he's been neutralized by the active sticks and the physicality of the Bruins defensemen, most notably Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg.
Kane appeared to be breaking out of his slump in Game 5 of the Western Conference Final, when he scored the series-winning goal in double overtime to complete a sensational hat trick. Since that game, the superstar winger has failed to score a goal. He has just one assist and an average of only 3.25 shots on goal per game against the Bruins.
Kane is most dangerous when he uses great speed and his exceptional puck-handling ability to shift his way through the neutral zone and drive hard to the opposing net. The Bruins have done a good job of taking away his time and space, effectively eliminating his speed and skill advantage over the Boston defensemen.
Chicago was able to survive the first three rounds without consistent scoring production from its best forward, but Boston is the best opponent that the Blackhawks have played so far, especially defensively.
Kane's inability to score goals and create scoring chances for teammates has significantly weakened the Blackhawks offense in the Cup final.
Brad Marchand, Boston Bruins
Brad Marchand was one of the Bruins' most effective players in the team's sweep of the Pittsburgh Penguins, helping out with clutch scoring, physical play and strong defense.
He hasn't made nearly the same impact against the Blackhawks with zero points, seven total shots, six hits and one takeaway.
In the last two games, Marchand has just three shots on goal, including a horrible attempt on a breakaway during Game 3, after which he shattered his stick in frustration on his way to the bench.
Following the triple-overtime loss in Game 1, the only top-six forward who has contributed offensively with a goal is Bergeron. He scored on the power play in the third game.
Boston has received strong production from its third line in the last two games, but to finish off a talented Blackhawks team and win the Stanley Cup, the Bruins need their best forwards, especially Marchand, to make a stronger contribution offensively.
Bryan Bickell, Chicago Blackhawks
Bryan Bickell was a difference-maker for the Blackhawks in the first three rounds. His eight goals scored had him tied for the team lead. As a power forward with the ability to excel against a physical team like the Bruins, the veteran winger was expected to play an important role in the Cup final.
Through three games, Bickell has been held scoreless with just five shots on goal. He's not winning as many puck battles as he did in the first three rounds, and he's failing to create traffic in front of Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask when Chicago is on the power play.
One way to get Bickell going would be for him to play alongside Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane on the Blackhawks' top line. This trio was successful in the second round against the Detroit Red Wings when Chicago faced a 3-1 deficit and was in need of offense.
This is an option that head coach Joel Quenneville must strongly consider going into Game 4 because he needs Bickell to contribute more on offense.
Torey Krug, Boston Bruins
Torey Krug burst onto the scene in Round 2 with four goals in five games as a rookie in his first career postseason series. But his performance from the start of the conference finals has not been as impressive.
The 22-year-old defenseman from Michigan State made a terrible turnover in Game 1 that led to the Blackhawks' second goal, and swung the momentum in the Hawks' favor.
He also committed a bad turnover in Game 2 that nearly resulted in a goal by Marian Hossa, but luckily for the Bruins, the referee behind the net blew the play dead and didn't see the puck cross the goal line.
From an offensive standpoint, Krug has been scoreless in the Cup final, extending his scoring drought to five games. His impact on the power play has also been lesser since the Rangers series, in which he scored three goals when the Bruins had the man advantage.
To be fair, it would be foolish to expect brilliance from Krug as a rookie with almost no regular season experience at the NHL level playing in his first Cup final.
With that said, he needs to make better decisions with the puck and just make the simple play if he wants to prevent future costly turnovers that will surely result in the Blackhawks creating high-quality scoring chances.
Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks
Jonathan Toews came into the postseason with a reputation as a big-game player who raises his performance when it matters most. After all, he won the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP in 2010 and was the best player on the gold medal-winning Team Canada at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.
But Toews has been surprisingly awful, especially on offense, during these playoffs with just one goal and eight assists through 20 games. In the Cup final, he's been held scoreless, largely because of Bruins center Patrice Bergeron.
For a player who scored at a point-per-game rate during the regular season (48 points in 47 games), Toews' offensive struggles in the playoffs have been greatly disappointing for Chicago.
His playmaking skills, ability to win puck battles and force turnovers ignite the team's offense and gain it possessions. The absences of that spark significantly impacts the Blackhawks' success.
In the Cup final, Toews has not been able to create offense against Bergeron or Boston's No. 1 defenseman, Zdeno Chara.
In the first period of Game 3, Chara was on the ice for all of Toews' shifts, and this situation will continue in Game 4 when the Bruins have the last line change as the home team.
If Toews is unable to find more success in his matchups against Chara and Bergeron for the remainder of the series, Chicago's season will end in disappointment.
Rich Peverley, Boston Bruins
Rich Peverley made a strong impact in the 2011 Cup final against the Vancouver Canucks with two goals and two assists.
Following a terrible regular season in which he scored just six goals with 12 assists in 47 games, Peverley has failed to make a stronger impact offensively in the playoffs. He began the postseason as a healthy scratch, but that hasn't resulted in his performance improving.
In 18 playoff games, the veteran winger has one goal, zero assists and a minus-seven rating on a Bruins team that has a goal differential of plus-20.
Peverley brings speed and penalty killing to the lineup, but he has not been able to make the same contribution offensively as the fourth-line center that he replaced, Gregory Campbell. His inability to score goals and create offense has prevented Bruins head coach Claude Julien from being able to roll four lines consistently and fully utilize the team's great depth.
If the 30-year-old forward's struggles continue, his future in Boston will be debated throughout the offseason.
Dave Bolland, Chicago Blackhawks
Dave Bolland played well in Game 1 with a goal and an assist, but it's been all downhill since. In addition to struggling from the faceoff dot, the 27-year-old center has failed to tally a point in the last two games
He's won only 10 of his 36 draws in this series, including a 1-of-8 mark in the Blackhawks 2-0 loss in Game 3.
His struggles continued with three bad penalties on Monday, which gave the Bruins extra opportunities to put the game away.
Overall, Bolland has zero points, a minus-one rating, just three shots and eight PIM in the last two games, both losses.
Chicago needs consistent bottom-six scoring to win this series, and Bolland's contributions on offense will play a major role in the team's success or failure.
Nicholas Goss is an NHL Lead Writer at Bleacher Report. He is also a credentialed writer at the 2013 Stanley Cup Final in Boston. All quotes obtained firsthand.