A long and hard journey to say the least this chase for the Stanley Cup. A journey of ups and downs, with a few bumps, bruises, and broken bones thrown in. A team needs a combination of luck, preparation and proper game planning for opponents, along with peaking at the right time, and of course a hot goaltender doesn’t hurt.
The Chicago Blackhawks were the cream of the NHL crop in the regular season. They claimed the Presidents’ Trophy with 77 points in this shortened season (38-7-5), and at several points looked like they may never lose another game – ever. Well, the NHL Playoffs are a different animal compared to the regular campaign, and the Hawks have faced some adversity. They trailed the Red Wings 3-1 in their second-round series, but fought back tooth and nail to win that match-up in OT of game 7! This is a team that can handle leading from the front, or fighting back when they are up against the wall. They also downed the Wild (5 games), and defending champion Kings (5 games). This is a very dangerous bunch.
The Boston Bruins are a physical force of nature at this point – and have 571 hits to prove it. Like Chicago they have faced some adversity in this post-season though. They held a 3-1 advantage over Toronto way back in the first-round, but let the Leafs creep back in to force game 7, and were trailing 4-1 with 11 minutes to go in that crazy game. It was over for the black and gold right? No. The Bruins showed hearts of lions, and scored 3 goals over the last 10 minutes of regulation, and we all know what Patrice Bergeron did in OT – putting a dagger in the soul of Leafs fans everywhere. Since then, the B’s have man-handled the Rangers and Penguins, and are 8-1 since that historic final game against Toronto.
Adam McQuaid scores the big goal to get Boston to the Stanley Cup Final:
So, who comes out on top in this first Original Six Stanley Cup Final since 1979? There is no regular season match-ups from this lockout truncated year to draw on. The last time these two teams played was eons ago on October 15th, 2011 – with Boston winning 3-2 in a shootout. Another weird fact is that these teams, despite their long and storied histories, have never met in the Stanley Cup Final.
Both franchises have enjoyed recent success, the Blackhawks sipping champagne from the Cup in 2010, and of course the Bruins two years ago in 2011. In this current NHL system, it’s tough to get to this point once, let alone twice in a couple of years. One of these teams will add to their championship history – and perhaps even be whispered as a modern-day hockey dynasty.
Chicago – Corey Crawford has been incredible in net (1.74 GAA, 12-5-1, .935 SV%, 1 S/O), if he can keep this going the B’s will get frustrated for sure. Hossa, Sharp & Kane lead the Hawks with 14 points each, but the play of Bryan Bickell has been the big and pleasant surprise (8G, 5A). Jonathan Toews has had a slow post-season by his standards (1G, 8A), and Chicago needs him to find his scoring touch if they are to have success.
Boston – David Krejci led the playoffs in scoring when Boston won the Cup in 2011. He currently leads the entire league again with 21 points (9G, 12A), and he’s been magic on most nights. No one has been more clutch for the Bruins than Patrice Bergeron though. He has two OT winners, and has been a demon on faceoffs, giving the B’s puck possession on most of his shifts. And, between the pipes, Tuukka Rask is making fans forget about the dominance of Tim Thomas in 2011. Rask has incredible numbers (1.75 GAA, 12-4-1, .943 SV%, 2 S/O), and he is certainly in the conversation for the Conn Smythe.
Prediction – This is a tough one to call! It could go the distance with either team winning it all, but, I’m going with Boston in 6 very physical games. The way they handled Malkin, Crosby, and all the Pittsburgh stars in the Eastern Conference Final was incredible to watch. If they can even come close to replicating that against the Hawks, then they will win their second Stanley Cup in three years.
I’ll be in Boston to cover Games 3 and 4 on the ground – and you can follow my updates on twitter here @MurphOnIce – so feel free to get in touch with any questions as I bring you behind the scenes of the greatest event in all of professional sports!