The Boston Bruins are in, and the entire hockey world is waiting for Chicago to join them.
By: Scott LaCascia
The Boston Bruins finished off the vaunted Pittsburgh Penguins Friday night to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals for the nineteenth time in their history, and the second time in the last three years. They will begin the Finals next week against either LA or Chicago. Unless you're a fan of the LA Kings (do hockey fans exist in So Cal?), who doesn't want to see an Original Six showdown? Assuming Chicago finishes off LA this weekend, the Bruins and Blackhawks will clash for the Cup. It would be their first meeting in the playoffs since 1978, and it would also be the first time that two Original Six teams squared off in the Cup Finals since 1979 when Montreal beat the Rangers in five games. The Bruins are hotter than hot, but who has the edge?
Bruins defenceman Adam McQuaid delivered the death blow to the Penguins 5:01 into the third period.
If someone had told me one week ago that the Bruins would sweep the Penguins I would have laughed at them and questioned their sanity, but it happened. The Bruins dismantled the Pittsburgh Penguins, outscoring them 12-2 in the four game sweep. Tomas Vokoun settled down after the first two games in Pittsburgh and played well in Game 3 and Game 4, but the Penguins could not solve the Tuukka Rask puzzle. The Bruins have won nine of their last ten in these NHL playoffs, and Rask has been nothing short of amazing and has rivaled Tim Thomas' postseason performance of 2011. He saved 134 of 136 shots for an unworldly .985 save percentage during the Eastern Conference Finals against the best offense in hockey. Pittsburgh on the other hand never lead during the series and did not play up to their standards or their incredible high end talent. Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and deadline pickup Jarome Iginla all posted doughnuts this series. The Pens got no production from any of their lines and even with Pittsburgh's weak goaltending situation, it didn't make a difference as they were shut out twice in four games. The Penguins' two goals tied the 2002 Flyers, 1952 Canadiens and the 1935 Bruins for the second lowest goal total for a seven game series. Incomprehensible is the only word I have to describe not only how well the Bruins played, but how poorly the Penguins played. I'm not surprised that the Bruins won this series, but I am surprised with how they won this series. If Rask continues on this roll, the Bruins are very difficult to beat.
The Blackhawks are gunning for their second Stanley Cup in four years.
The Chicago Blackhawks currently lead the defending Stanley Cup Champion Los Angeles Kings three games to one in the Western Conference Finals, and are likely heading back to the Finals for the first time since 2010, when they defeated the Flyers for their first Cup in 49 years. The Blackhawks won the President's Trophy this year, leading the NHL with 77 points in only 48 regular season games. Chicago tied the NHL record set by the Anaheim Ducks in the 2006-07 season by earning points in the first 16 consecutive games of a season, and they set a new NHL record for earning points in the first 17 consecutive games of a season. They are perhaps the most well-rounded team in the league, finishing second in goals per game, first in goals against, have the 19th ranked power play but also boast the third-best penalty kill in the league. Corey Crawford was shaky in net in the Detroit series but rebounded well as Chicago took the last three games of the series to win in seven. In the playoffs Jonathan Towes, Patrick Kane and Patrick Sharp had been playing on different lines as they tried to generate some offense, but after moving left wing Bryan Bickell to the first line the Blackhawks have found their scoring touch. Due to the lockout, the East did not play the West this season. The Bruins and Blackhawks have no real history against one another, which should make for an unpredictable series (the last meeting was in October 2011, a 3-2 shootout win for the Bruins). Chicago probably has better scorers but the Bruins have an edge with Rask in net. For the first time in 34 years, two flagship NHL franchises will be playing for Lord Stanley's Cup, unless the defending champions stun Chicago and win three straight. BEAT LA just doesn't work for hockey, so bring on Chicago.