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Thursday, June 20

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Blackhawks Mon Jun 10 2013

Blackhawks And Bruins For The Cup

Thumbnail image for GB blackhawks icon.png So it's all come down to this -- the Chicago Blackhawks, a team which had many questions about its starting goaltender; its coach; its oft-pickled left-winger, coming into this season, a season which almost didn't happen, now finds itself four wins away from winning its second Stanley Cup in four seasons.

No one could have imagined back on opening day that Corey Crawford eventually would be co-recipient of the William Jennings Trophy (his teammate, Ray Emery, was the other recipient) and would post a 1.74 GAA through three rounds of the playoffs; that coach Joel Quenneville eventually would make brilliant line changes that included the re-pairing of two veteran defensemen in Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook that would make a difference in a Game 7 against its oldest rival; and that party boy Patrick Kane would improve upon not only his numbers from previous seasons, but also his attitude with, perhaps, a little bit of help from his own mother while in Switzerland.

With all due respect to the other teams in town, there's no doubt all eyes will be on this Blackhawks/Bruins series, probably more so than the last Stanley Cup final in 2010 against the Philadelphia Flyers, in which the Cup made it's triumphant return to the Windy City since the Kennedy administration. This series will be different on a couple of levels.

The first being the Blackhawks haven't faced an Eastern Conference team all season, due to the lockout. Picture the way baseball used to work: the National League only faced the American League in the World Series, sans the annual Crosstown Classic, which was an exhibition game (Ryne Sandberg once threw a bullpen session, if that tells you anything of that game).

The last time the Blackhawks played the Bruins was on Saturday, October 15, 2012, at the United Center where the Bruins pulled out a 3-2 in a shootout. In fact, the last time these two old franchises played each other in the postseason was back in 1978 when the Bruins beat the Blackhawks in the opening round. Needless to say, Chicago is due.

Another interesting angle is how the Bruins absolutely shut down the Pittsburgh Penguins, who posted the highest goal total during the regular season (165). All anyone could talk about in that series was how Sid the Kid and company were going to carve up Tuukka Rask and the rest of the B defense. Four straight games and only two goals later, Sid the Kid now is making fishing trip plans and tee times.

The Blackhawks had the second-highest goal total this past season (155) so it's very likely the Bruins will use the same smothering tactics for this series. Coach Q will have to make his team find the center of the ice, otherwise, they're going to run into the 6-foot, 9-inch wall that is Zdeno Chára.

After the Blackhawks survived the Red Wings in the conference semis, there was talk of how the Los Angeles Kings were going to make for a nightmare of a match-up for Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa and the like, due to its tremendous defense, led by all-world goalie Jonathan Quick. And while Quick eventually settled down between the pipes, he certainly was vulnerable when many thought he'd be impenetrable. That talk continues with Rask.

Look for the Blackhawks to use speed against a team that plays a lot like the Kings: big, also fast, but can be beat with smart line changes and puck control. The dumb slashing and multiple penalties will need to come at a minimum against a team like the Bruins. They charge hard to the net with scoring opportunities unlike any opponent the Blackhawks have faced this season.

Look for big scoring chances from the Bruins' leaders in points this postseason, with the likes of David Krejci (nine goals, 12 assists), Nathan Horton (seven goals, 10 assists) and Brad Marchand (four goals, nine assists), who setup Patrice Bergeron with a sweet pass for the Game 3 winner in double overtime.

NBC currently is licking its chops at this match-up of Original Six teams, the first since 1979 when Les Canadiens beat the New York Rangers four games to one. Not to mention, both of these teams have won the Cup at least once in the last four years, so there's familiarity for the casual fan that might have caught a glimpse or via the ether.

What's exciting for this fair city is that now begins the dressing of the famous Art Institute lions in Blackhawks gear, the number 10 head band on the Picasso, and the towers that line the downtown will sequence its lights with a red glow that can be seen for miles.

It's all come down to this, and you couldn't ask for a better match-up. The Blackhawks have provided its fans with a special season, and now it's time to cap it off with one last piece of hardware.

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