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Chara vs. Nyquist is the Most Pivotal Matchup for Series against Detroit


Speed kills.

It may be a cliché, but in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, nothing could be more true. With Henrik Zetterberg still on IR and Pavel Datsyuk just returning to the ice, the greatest weapon Detroit Red Wings will have against the Boston Bruins defense is fleet-footed youngster Gustav Nyquist.

His counter will be B's captain and chief minute-muncher Zdeno Chara. And, well, we all know how well that worked out last time.

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Despite the fact that Nyquist only has 18 playoff games under his belt, the Swedish winger owns the hottest stick in the NHL, scoring 21 points in the final 22 games of the season. He's played Greg Jennings to the ailing Red Wings, putting the team on his back for a tooth-and-nail fight to the playoffs. Experience or not, it’s difficult to squash momentum like that.

Chara, one of the most hardest hittin' d-men in the league, is tasked with shutting down the streaking 24-year-old. The 37-year-old colossus boasts a plus-33 postseason plus/minus since joining the Bruins in '07. However, Big Z’s effectiveness is waning with age - as evidenced by his performance in last year's Stanley Cup Finals, where he saw his differential fall to minus-6 in the three games prior to elimination.

He was, by the end, the league’s biggest turnstyle. And Bruins fans should be wary of a similar fault in the Slovak machine.

Blueline buddy Dennis Seidenberg is still on the mend, so Chara will command even bigger minutes on the back end in this series. With Nyquist skating on Detroit’s first line, this is a mismatch that Mike Babcock and Co. should be hasty to exploit.

Perhaps the answer is pairing Nyquist against fellow speedster Torey Krug, who, though not known for his defensive prowess, could at least keep pace with the Detroit forward. Or perhaps stingy backchecking from Patrice Bergeron or smashmouth corner play by Milan Lucic could keep Nyquist on a leash.

Either way, the Bruins need something to supplement the 1-on-1 with Chara because, if there’s one Red Wing who can turn Chara’s stick into a 65-inch feather duster, it’s Gustav Nyquist.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Nyquist had only played four playoff games in his career when he has in fact played 18.