The Chicago Blackhawks and Boston Bruins made history over the weekend.
By winning the Western and Eastern Conference finals, the ‘Hawks and Bruins set up a Stanley Cup finals featuring two of the league’s most storied franchises.
This matchup is the first Original Six battle since the Montreal Canadiens and New York Rangers met in the 1979 Stanley Cup finals.
So storied, yes.
But familiar? Nope.
These two have never faced each other for Lord Stanley’s Mug before.
The Bruins got there in the most improbable of fashions — sweeping the East’s No. 1 seed, the Pittsburgh Penguins, in four straight games. The Bruins did it on the strength of outstanding goaltending from Tuukka Rask, who only allowed two goals over the course of the series, and some timely scoring.
In Game 4, that timely scoring came from defenseman Adam McQuaid, who made just his second goal of this postseason one of the biggest of his career. His tally stood as the winning marker as Boston defeated Pittsburgh 1-0, putting the Bruins in their second Stanley Cup finals in the last three years.
Out West, the Blackhawks advanced to their second Cup finals appearance in four years as they dispatched of the defending champion Los Angeles Kings.
Chicago got a classic clutch performance from forward Patrick Kane, who scored a hat-trick in the 4-3 victory, scoring a beauty game-winner in double-overtime.
That set the stage for what should be a tremendous 2013 Stanley Cup finals — one that gets underway on Wednesday, June 12 on NBC.,
As a result of that darn lockout, the Boston Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks have yet to play against each other in 2013.
That changes Wednesday, when the two teams meet in the 2013 Stanley Cup Final.
At times in these playoffs, both have made their respective successes look easy, although both were facing the abyss of elimination.
The Bruins were down three goals in Game 7 of the first round to the Toronto Maple Leafs, only to conjure a miraculous comeback before winning that series in overtime. They have since charged past their most recent opponents – the New York Rangers in the second round and the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference final.
The Blackhawks were down 3-1 to the Detroit Red Wings in the second round, but won the next three games to advance to the Western Conference final, where they dispatched the L.A. Kings in five games.
Just because they have yet to face each other this season, does not mean the two teams aren’t familiar with each other.
“I think all the information is out there for both teams to understand how we both play,” Bruins head coach Claude Julien said, as per the Associated Press.
“There’s no secrets there. Again, like I said, it’s only the head to head, how the two teams are kind of going to clash, what’s going to happen when we do. It’s as simple as that.
“It’s about having confidence in what you plan on doing and going out there and executing it, that’s all you can do.”
Love him or hate him, Boston Bruins forward Brad Marchand has shown an ability to raise his game and take others off theirs late in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Take 2011, for example.
Against the Vancouver Canucks, Marchand scored twice and had three points in Game 7, which the Bruins won, giving them the Stanley Cup.
He was also partly responsible for completely disrupting the Sedins – Daniel and Henrik – as that series progressed in favor of the Bruins.
The Bruins are back to the final for the second time in three years, this time against the Chicago Blackhawks, the 2013 Presidents’ Trophy winners.
One Stanley Cup isn’t enough for Marchand.
“It’s an incredible feeling. I don’t think it’s ever one that you can really describe. I think it just gets better and better every time,” Marchand told CSNNE.com.
“It was unbelievable to win that first one [Stanley Cup], but being back in the Finals and having the opportunity to go after another one, it feels the exact same. We’re very excited.”
It’s easy to get distracted by all Brad Marchand’s histrionics and forget the fact that he’s developed into a go-to guy for the Boston Bruins.
The budding star/pest already has two 20+ goal seasons to his name and nearly did as much in this abbreviated season (18 goals in 45 games in 2013).
He came up big in the 2013 Eastern Conference finals, scoring two goals and assisting on the Bruins’ last two game-winners in four successful contests against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Keith Jones gives Marchand’s play – and his agitating ways – a glowing review in the video below:
If you blinked at all this past week you would’ve missed the Boston Bruins sweeping the Pittsburgh Penguins out of the Eastern Conference finals.
Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli spoke with reporters today about the team and did a lot of pointing out the obvious about their success. Joe Haggerty of CSNNE.com was there to hear what he had to say.
“I don’t have many complaints. From top to bottom, we’ve been rolling,” said Chiarelli. “In all three zones, we’ve been really good. Defending we’ve been good, Tuukka’s [Rask] been terrific, we’re generating a lot of chances, we’re scoring when we have to and we’re shutting down when we have to.
“It’s hard to complain after the last two series. The challenge will be to keep it going in the next series, whoever we play.”
Boston’s won their last two rounds in five and four games respectively. Whether they end up facing Chicago or Los Angeles in the Stanley Cup finals may not matter if they continue to play as dominantly as they have.
After all, if Tuukka Rask is going to put up a .986 save percentage in the next round, either Corey Crawford or Jonathan Quick are going to have to be perfect.