Chicago and Boston represent two of the last four Cup winners and two of the largest and most rabid media markets in the league, which should equate to excellent ratings in the states. The Blackhawks dispatched the defending Stanley Cup champion Kings in five games in the Western Conference finals; the Bruins wiped out everybody’s favorite, the Penguins, in an Eastern Conference Finals sweep.
It looks like an epic series, but can we really say for certain? Due to the lockout shortened regular season, Western Conference teams did not play Eastern Conference teams so it’s difficult, if not impossible to get a gauge on this matchup.
The Bruins have been on an incredible run since rallying from a 4-1 deficit in Game 7 to defeat the Maple Leafs in the conference quarterfinals. Since then, Boston has defeated the Rangers in five games and swept the Penguins. That has led to the predictable notion from the North American media that the Bruins are an unstoppable force. Of course, that same opinion held true for the Penguins before the Bruins dispatched them with remarkable ease, and with the Blackhawks after they rallied from a 3-1 deficit against the Red Wings in the conference semifinals.
The opinion here? We’re not sure how impressed we should be with Boston’s accomplishments because we weren’t terribly impressed with the Eastern Conference this season. All season long, we touted the Bruins as the toughest team in that conference, and that held true, but aside from the Penguins, we didn’t see another real Cup contender in the East.
We are still of the belief that the Western Conference is far deeper but maybe that’s just our West Coast bias (it felt good to write that). Again, we have believed all along that the Bruins were the most complete team in the East but when you’re beating tragically flawed teams in Toronto, New York and even Pittsburgh, with its suspect defense and goaltending, what have you really proven?
Here’s what we believe holds true of the Bruins. First and foremost, Boston’s character and resolve are a perfect reflection of the city, which pulled together after the Boston Marathon bombings. It’s a powerful storyline, and one many observers like to think could fuel the team’s run to a championship. But real life doesn’t always mesh with fairytales. Just ask the 2001 New York Yankees.
There is no doubting the play of goaltender Tuukka Rask and the Boston defense after they utterly muted Pittsburgh’s potent offense, but again, everyone was saying that about the L.A. Kings and Jonathan Quick before the Blackhawks made Quick look ordinary with 14 goals in five-plus games.
There is no doubting the contributions of David Krejci, Nathan Thornton and Patrice Bergeron and other Bruins, but again, they did it against suspect competition the first two rounds, and a suspect defensive team in the conference finals.
We just don’t know how good the Bruins are yet.
So does that mean we’re picking the Blackhawks now that Patrick Kane has found his sea legs, Corey Crawford is matching the best goalies in the game and Chicago has home-ice advantage, which has been a real advantage in this year’s playoffs? Home teams in this postseason are 56-24 (.700), one win short of the NHL record for most wins by home teams in a playoff season (57) set in 1991.
Funny you should ask. Call it superstition, but we don’t pick the childhood team in tight matchups. We certainly think the Blackhawks have the chops to get it done. They’re a better defensive team than any the Bruins have seen in the postseason, and they’re as good offensively as any Boston has seen.
In spite of all that evidence and Chicago’s wire-to-wire act the season, we sense a bit of magic in Boston. That rally against Toronto just felt like manifest destiny.