June 12, 2013

We’re in for a Stanley Cup treat

by Dan Bilicki In: Ice Hockey

You know what guys, I’m actually a little excited for the Stanley Cup final this year. And that’s really saying something because my feeling towards the NHL and ice hockey have been, well – in no ironic sense of the term – ice cold of late. Chicago and Boston provides us with a very interesting matchup, so let’s break down why this could be special.

-We get to see two Original Six teams faceoff for the Cup for the first time in decades. In fact, the last time that two such teams met in the final was 1979 and the Blackhawks and Bruins have surprisingly never met in the final. Pretty crazy considering the two sides have been around for almost a century.

-The Bruins are one of the first teams in a while that have a legit four-line squad. The fact that they can roll out all 12 guys in their lineup and always have a scoring threat on the ice is just plain ridiculous. Usually games hit lulls when both sides have their checking lines out their just to cause some havoc. I don’t want to see two goons shove each other around, I want to see the skill guys showing what they’re capable of.

-That being said, these two teams can play a physical game. It’s really how you win in the playoffs since the refs will put away their whistles. Nobody can doubt that one of these sides has the toughness to win it all.

-We’re looking at two teams that have each won the Stanley Cup within the past three years. And both of the team’s cores are essentially the same from the title squads. Oddly, the big changes that both franchises have made in the past few seasons is a change between the pipes. Antti Niemi is no longer in Chicago and Tim Thomas is somewhere in the ether. But it hasn’t made a difference at all because …

-We’re watching two young, unheralded goalies come into their own as stars in this league. Blackhawks’ Corey Crawford and Bruins’ Tuukka Rask have emerged as top-flight stoppers in this league and won’t be taken lightly from now on. Many forget that this is just Rask’s first season as a starter with Thomas “taking the year off.”

-Best of all, these two teams haven’t faced each yet this season. Thanks to the lockout – which I maintain solved nothing – Game 1 will be the first contest this season between a Western and Eastern Conference team. Pretty crazy, right? It harkens back to baseball’s time before Interleague play, when AL and NL teams never met before the World Series.

As for an uninformed prediction, I say the Bruins win in 6 – but there’s a real shot that this becomes a seven-game classic.

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