Darren Pang on D&C: Bruins ‘set for another challenge at the championship’
|02.26.13 at 12:14 pm ET|
NBC hockey analyst Darren Pang checked in with Dennis & Callahan on Tuesday to discuss the Bruins’ fast start and the Blackhawks’ even-better performance.
The Blackhawks have earned at least a point in each of their first 19 games with their NHL-record 16-0-3 start.
“That is incredible. I’m just amazed at the run that they’re on right now,” said Pang, a former goalie who played three seasons for the Blackhawks in the 1980s. “I’m in St. Louis right now and going to Toronto tomorrow for a Leafs game, but I should be back on Thursday and the streak will be on the line when the Blackhawks and the Blues play at Scottrade Center in St. Louis on Thursday. That will be a heck of a game. It always is. They don’t like each other. It is actually one of the true rivalries in the game. Once they get one playoff game behind them, if they end up facing each other in the playoffs this year I think people will really see how much St. Louis and Chicago don’t like each other. But I know that the Blues will want to end that great run that the Blackhawks are on on Thursday.”
While the Blackhawks clearly are the favorites in the Western Conference, there are a few teams that could make the claim in the East. Pang said the Bruins have the best chance.
“I think we have to be fair to how both Pittsburgh and Montreal have played, but I think there’s more strength in Boston than either of those teams,” Pang said. “It’s almost like last year in the West. There were teams that had more points than the LA Kings, but trust me, no one in the West wanted to play the LA Kings even though they were the eighth team. And it’s because of the way they’re built. They’re built with big, strong redwood trees on the wing, they’ve got good centermen up the middle of the ice, good depth, good defensemen that move the puck, and a horse on the blue line, and great goaltending. So, the same thing could be said about the Boston Bruins. If I were a team in the East, the one team I wouldn’t want to play to begin it all would be the Boston Bruins because I think they’re set for another challenge at the championship.”
One big reason for Boston’s early season success has been the play of goalie Tuukka Rask.
“I’m a big Tuukka Rask believer,” Pang said. “I think he’s waited his time. He’s ready to be a main guy. I like the way he handles things, he’s competitive, technically really sound. I’m impressed but I’m not surprised. A couple of years ago, before the Bruins won the Stanley Cup, when Tuukka had the ball and ran with it, he was pretty darn good and that was three years ago. So I knew he’d be ready for this challenge that’s ahead of him right now.”
Zdeno Chara showed surprising dexterity for a 6-foot-9 defenseman Sunday, pulling off a spin move and scoring against the Panthers in the B’s 4-1 victory.
“That was elegant,” Pang said. “Like Jean Beliveau was such a gentleman on the ice — competitive, it doesn’t mean you’re not competitive, but just the grace and the elegance that the big fella did that at was absolutely amazing. It wasn’t just the spin-o-rama, it was the saucy backhander. Not many guys can pull that heel-to-toe backhander off and go top cheese under the bar and in. That was what was spectacular, and at his size, no less.”