This evening, the NHL will get it’s first taste of Original Six Stanley Cup action since 1979. With the Red Wings set to move to the East this summer, the league has to be licking it’s chops as the odds of the next one get even slimmer. Making things even more interesting, the Boston Bruins and the Chicago Blackhawks will battle for Lord Stanley’s chalice for the first time in their storied histories. In a league that only had six teams for a 25 year span, that’s an incredible feat. When the puck drops just after 8pm, don’t expect the hype to drop with it.
The Bruins have continued their playoff surge, dispatching of the highly favored Penguins in an inconceivable 4 game sweep. The most telling moment came during NBC’s post game show when both Keith Jones and Mike Milbury (Mike freakin’ Milbury!) were speechless for a moment. While much of the media is focusing on the Pens failures, the real attention has to be on the Bruins success. While Sydney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin were busy cross checking Tuukka Rask and fighting Patrice Bergeron in game 1, the B’s never lost their cool and rolled to a 3-0 victory. Boston stepped on the jugular in game 2, taking full advantage of a Penguins team that didn’t show up to play. Game 3 was a battle, but the victory had to wear on Pittsburgh mentally. The only team that could have beaten the Bruins in game 4 were themselves. The B’s have been on fire since their miracle comeback in game 7 against the Maple Leafs in round 1. Their only loss came in an overtime game in which they let the Rangers hang around too long. Injured defensemen Dennis Seidenberg and Andrew Ference both look to be playing healthy enough. Gregory Campbell is a tough loss to swallow, but in the grand scheme of things, not a devastating one. The B’s have enough guys who can fill in on the all-mighty penalty kill, and the trio of Kaspars Daugavins, Jay Pandolfo, and Carl Soderberg give the B’s more than capable fill-in options.
Out West, the Blackhawks have had their own successes, rallying around their rough and tumble series against the Detroit Redwings and coming back from a 3-1 deficit. The defending champ L.A. Kings were no pushovers, but the Hawks were able to knock them out handily in 5 games. Chicago was, pound for pound, the best team in the regular season and continues to shine in the playoffs. They match up well against the Bruins, particularly depth and goaltending. Faceoffs will be pivotal as Jonathan Toews is one of the best in the league. Chicago’s also not afraid to throw the body around and get physical, a game the Bruins have been able to exploit so far these playoffs.
The Bruins will have their work cut out for them, but the keys will be sticking to their game and getting under the Blackhawks skin. The Bruins had exactly double the fighting majors of the Blackhawks (32 – 16) over the regular season, putting them at opposite ends of the knuckle-sandwhich spectrum. The B’s need to go after Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa the way they did with the Canucks in 2011. Remember Brad Marchand repeatedly jabbing Daniel Sedin in the face… all with no reaction? Patrick Kane is a noted hot-head and a little poking may go a long way. The B’s need to irritate without taking stupid penalties. Meantime, they’ll rely on their team defense and Tuukka Rask’s stymy netminding to keep the Hawks out of games. The offense will have to continue patiently waiting for their opportunities, all while getting timely shots from the blueline. It’s going to take a team effort, but it’s certainly attainable.
Series Prediction: Bruins in 6
It’s going to feel more like 8 games. Plan for allot of extra hockey and some rough mornings at work. These guys will battle every minute of every game, but expect the Bruins depth and cool demeanor to prevail.