After a regular season that was shortened due to a player lockout, the NHL has rebounded in order to deliver a thrilling series of playoff matchups that have all ultimately led to the Stanley Cup Finals. For the first time in over 30 years, two members of hockey’s legendary Original Six are competing for the championship trophy as the Boston Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks face off in what promises to be one of the most watched finals series in history.
The Bruins have had a somewhat unlikely run at the Stanley Cup thus far. After securing a mere four seed in the Eastern conference with a record of 28-14-6, the team narrowly squeaked by the Toronto Maple Leafs in seven games of Conference Quarter-Finals play. Since then, however, Boston has looked like an unstoppable force on the ice. The Bruins absolutely dominated the New York Rangers in five games during the Conference Semi-Finals, with their sole loss coming in a close overtime game. In their last series before the Finals, Boston swept the Eastern Conference favorites by pummeling the Pittsburgh Penguins in four straight games, completely shutting down the Penguins key scorers in Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz. Unfortunately for the Bruins, all roads lead toward their biggest test of the season.
Throughout the entire NHL season, the Chicago Blackhawks have been the team to beat. Using their speed and athleticism, the Blackhawks fought their way to a 36-7-5 record in route to winning the President’s Trophy. In the first round of the playoffs, Chicago easily trumped the Minnesota Wild in five games. In the second round, however, the team was put to the ultimate test against the Detroit Red Wings as the series stretched across seven competitive games. Once in the Conference Finals, the Blackhawks continued to squeak by in playoffs matches. Though they beat out the L.A. Kings in a mere five contests, the Blackhawks were only victorious by an average of one goal per match, with the final victory coming in double overtime.
Defense is going to be the key to this series, and goals will indeed by difficult to come by with Blackhawk whiz kid Joey Crawford and Bruin star goalie Tuukka Rask guarding the nets. Both have been stellar in the playoffs, Crawford with a .931 save percentage and Rask with a .941 respectfully, making them among the most effective goalies in the league. The goalie standoff creates a stalemate so to speak, and the winner will be decided by whoever has the best supporting D-men to create more difficult shots for opposing players.
In order to be crowned champion, both teams are going to dig deep to combat one another. The team with the hottest current streak, and the number one team in the country are going to come to blows, and when the dust settles, it will be the club that has capitalized on offensive aggression as a result of defensive perfection that will have the honor of hoisting the coveted Stanley Cup above their shoulders, adding to a glorious legacy as the best team in the world. This is what the players have dreamed of since the first time they put on skates. It is an image that drives them during each and every play. This is worth the sacrifice, and worth the heartache. This is playoff hockey at its finest.