Bruins have to do homework

BOSTON -- There are many ways to describe the upcoming Stanley Cup finals between the Boston Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks.

It's the first Original Six championship matchup since 1979. Both teams play similar styles. Both teams have won a Stanley Cup title in the past three seasons, and both are loaded with talent from top to bottom.

Despite the fact Boston and Chicago haven't played against each other since Oct. 15, 2011 -- a 3-2 shootout victory for the Bruins at United Center -- no one should think preparing for this series will be a game of pin the tail on the donkey. It shouldn't be a dizzying adventure for either team.

Even with the lack of head-to-head familiarity between the teams, Bruins coach Claude Julien and Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville have the resources to properly prepare their teams for the next opponent.

"Like everything else, even the teams that we played, we relied a lot on video," Julien said. "The only advantage you have sometimes is that you know from going head-to-head with them what's worked and what hasn't worked. When it comes to that, it's the same for both teams.

"I think we've done a lot of pre-scout and watched them play enough -- have an idea of how they've played -- just like I'm sure they do with us. You do your research, you talk to people, you do a lot of things. It's about preparing your team more than anything else. There's not too many secrets left in this game.

"It creates a challenge for them as well. All the information is out there for both teams to understand how we both play. There are no secrets there. Again, like I said, it's only the head-to-head, how the two teams are kind of going to clash, what's going to happen when we do. It's as simple as that. It's about having confidence in what you plan on doing and going out there and executing it; that's all you can do."

Before earning the right to play for the Stanley Cup, the Bruins had success against the Toronto Maple Leafs and New York Rangers before dominating the Pittsburgh Penguins in a four-game sweep in the conference finals.

The Blackhawks defeated the Minnesota Wild, Detroit Red Wings and defending Cup champion Los Angeles Kings.

It will be interesting to see how the Bruins match up with the Blackhawks. With the style of play and experience from both teams, it really seems like a mirror image.

"The last thing you want to do is try and feel your way through this final, because by the time you're done doing that the damage will be done," Julien said. "You've got to go out there and establish your game plan and just play with confidence."

After having Saturday off, the Bruins were back on the practice ice Sunday at TD Garden. Meetings and video work will begin for the players on Monday. By the time puck drops for Game 1 on Wednesday, the Bruins players will have a more in-depth understanding of the Blackhawks. Julien's staff is preparing all the necessary scouting reports.

The thought process in the Bruins locker room after the 45-minute on-ice session wasn't about how the Blackhawks play but how Boston needs to continue its successful style of hockey, which has them riding a five-game winning streak and holding a 9-1 record in their past 10.

"It's something that we haven't really dealt with ever, going into a playoff series," Bruins forward Milan Lucic said of the team's lack of experience playing Chicago. "But I think that's why a lot of emphasis goes into just focusing on your game and knowing what you do well. That's where our focus is right now."

Julien's philosophy of prioritizing defense has been crucial for the Bruins' success in recent years, and Boston has proved when it plays solid defensively, its offense excels. During the playoffs this spring, the Bruins have executed an effective, fast-moving, quick-passing breakout, which has resulted in plenty of quality scoring opportunities.

The Blackhawks are similar in the way they're able to break the puck out and utilize the neutral zone to their benefit, so, defensively, Chicago will present more than a few challenges for the Bruins.

"When you look at the mobility that they have back there, it's certainly a strength of theirs," Julien said. "The transition game is extremely good because of their back end and how they move that puck quickly, so you've got to respect that part of it, there's no doubt. They built their team that way, and they've had success that way."

When Chicago is able sustain pressure in the offensive zone, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp, Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa lead the attack.

"Obviously, they've got some pretty skilled forwards, but they also have pretty good defensemen," Bruins forward David Krejci said. "They can all move the puck well, and they're pretty good skaters, so we're going to have to be playing a pretty good defensive style of hockey."

Like any other Stanley Cup finals, a huge part of the series will come down to goaltending.

The Bruins' Tuukka Rask has been phenomenal in the postseason, and if he can continue his strong play, he'll be a front-runner for the Conn Smythe Trophy. After succeeding Stanley Cup champion, Conn Smythe winner and two-time Vezina winner Tim Thomas, Rask has built his own fame in Boston this spring. He's 12-4 with a 1.75 goals-against average and a .943 save percentage in 16 games.

The masked man at the other end of the ice, however, is awfully good, too.

Chicago's Corey Crawford has a 1.74 GAA and a .935 save percentage and has allowed two or fewer goals in 12 games this postseason. His latest feat was outdueling Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick in the Western Conference finals.

"He's played well all year," Lucic said. "You just look at his numbers and the way that he's played. He's been one of the key contributors to that hockey club, and, just like every other goalie, you've got to try to find holes in him and try to break him down in order to be successful."

Boston's ability to screen the opposing goaltender has been one of its keys to success during the playoffs. The Maple Leafs' James Reimer, the Rangers' Henrik Lundqvist and the Penguins' Tomas Vokoun all had trouble dealing with the Bruins' traffic in front.

Now that they're ready to face Crawford, that trend needs to continue despite not knowing a lot about the opposing netminder.

"Obviously he's a good goaltender," Krejci, the postseason points leader, said. "He had a pretty good season and a good playoff as well. We've got to get on him early, get some traffic, and if he doesn't see the puck, he can't stop it. That's what we've got to do."

Once the puck drops on the Cup finals, it will all be about the hockey.

"The excitement is there. You've heard people say, 'Once you've been there, you want to go back.' It's true, we really want to go back; we made it happen," Julien said. "We're excited about it, and we also know what kind of challenge lies ahead for us. It's about acknowledging that and being ready for it."