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Sports

June 11, 2013

Special teams could prove crucial in Stanley Cup finals

CHICAGO — When it comes to power plays in the Stanley Cup finals, the Chicago Blackhawks and Boston Bruins might just prefer to keep going with everyone on the ice.

The last two teams in the NHL playoffs have been lousy with the man advantage and terrific at killing penalties during the postseason.

When the Blackhawks are forced to play a man down, Michael Frolik and Marcus Kruger are so persistent it almost resembles an even-strength situation. And the Bruins have hulking defenseman Zdeno Chara and goalie Tuukka Rask, who is swallowing everything at the net these days.

Heading into Game 1 tomorrow night, goals on special teams have been so scarce for these teams that a couple for either side could tip the series in one direction.

“The special teams are kind of key, if you want to (have) success,” Frolik said after Chicago held an optional practice yesterday. “We try to talk about it all the time about that and make sure we’re on the same page. It’s especially going to be key right now. We’ve got to make we are ready for the challenge.”

So far, so good on that front for the Bruins and Blackhawks.

With Frolik and Kruger tying up the action on top of the zone, Chicago has allowed just three goals in 58 power-play opportunities for an astounding 94.8 percent kill rate. Los Angeles got two of them in the Western Conference finals, but one was a meaningless goal by Tyler Toffoli at the very end of the Blackhawks’ 4-2 victory in Game 2.

The 92.5 percent finish for the 2000 New Jersey Devils is the best playoff rate for a Stanley Cup champion in the last 25 years, according to STATS.

“I think they do a good job of fronting shots,” Boston coach Claude Julien said of Chicago’s penalty killers. “You really have to work hard to get the shots through. That’s what they are, they’re very patient; they’re very aggressive when you do lose, I guess, control of the puck and if they feel they can get on you, they’ll get on you quick. They’ve done a good job that way.”

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