2013 Stanley Cup Finals Preview

8439__stanley_cup_playoffs-secondary-2013There is a special group in hockey that stands above the rest of the teams in the league as they represent the beginnings of the league. They are a group of teams that have stood the test of time and were the only teams in the league. The Original Six is a group different from any other in sports as they are the beginning of one of the major sports leagues in North America. They are the six teams that made up the entire league from 1942-1967 before expansions brought new teams. The most unusual part of these teams is the fact that they remain in the league and represent some of the most successful teams in the league. The Toronto Maple Leafs, Montreal Canadiens, Boston Bruins, New York Rangers, Chicago Blackhawks, and Detroit Red Wings would help guide the NHL through a long period. In 1967 the Original Six would gain their true spot in NHL lore as they would be joined by the first expansion teams in NHL history. The six teams would become those teams that the new six teams would look to for inspiration. They represented what new teams like the Los Angeles Kings and St. Louis Blues should aspire to. As expansion continued these teams began to slip as the pool of players became more drawn out to fill what would eventually become the 30 teams in the league now. Many were still successful like the Toronto Maple Leafs, who just recently became the first NHL team valued at $1 billion. The play on the ice was not the same though as the legend of the Original Six seemed to wear off and many of the Original Six began slumps. After 1994, when the New York Rangers won the Stanley Cup, only the Detroit Red Wings would see any type of success. The other five teams would struggle to win a Cup even though they would make appearances in the playoffs regularly. It would be a while until an Original Six team not named the Red Wings would win another cup. It was a strange period for the Original Six as the traditional hockey markets would take a back seat to the non-traditional markets. Teams like the Carolina Hurricanes, Tampa Bay Lightning, Colorado Avalanche, and Anaheim Ducks would begin to put their names on the Cup. The only team to survive out of the six would be the Detroit Red Wings who would have a great run of 4 Championships from 1997-2008. The rest would be without a title as many of the teams would struggle to be recognized among the best teams in the league. Then came the a new version of the Chicago Blackhawks. Ownership would change for the Blackhawks and so came a new TV deal, former policy would prevent the organization from being broadcast, and a host of young stars. The Blackhawks would be the only Original Six Team not named the Red Wings to win a Stanley Cup in 14 seasons. The Blackhawks win in 2010 would mark a bit of a comeback for the Original Six as when they rose they almost seemed to boost the other teams in the group. The Toronto Maple Leafs still own the longest Stanley Cup drought but recently broke a 9 year playoff drought and are seemingly turning things around. The Montreal Canadiens are a team that seems to be finding more stability and could be a team to watch in the near future. The New York Rangers have been near or at the top of the league for the last few years despite not making the Stanley Cup finals. Meanwhile the Detroit Red Wings remain one of the most dangerous teams in the league and the Boston Bruins would win the Stanley Cup a year after the Blackhawks in 2011. The comeback of the Original Six seems to be come to a pinnacle this year as the Stanley Cup Finals will feature the first all Original Six matchup since 1979. The Boston Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks will lead the way for those legendary teams that started this league as yet another Original Six team will win the Cup for the third time in four years. It is another point for the NHL as the Original Six is back and waiting to take control of the league once again. The only question left to answer is who will lead the Original Six back to the top? Will it be the Big Bad Bruins or the high-flying Blackhawks?

 

Boston Bruins

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The Bruins are doing things the old-fashioned way this year as the “Big Bad Bruins” are back and ready to win again. The season seemed a lot longer for the Bruins this year with their schedule changing in large part due to the tragedies of the Boston Marathon Bombings. With heavy police operations in Boston the Bruins would have two games rescheduled at the end of their season giving them a tough finish to the season. If the shortened season did not already bring enough games close together two rescheduled games would bring their season even tighter. The lack of rest at the end of the season for the Bruins would hurt them as they limped into the playoffs and were expected to struggle as the playoffs moved on with the team looking too tired to win another championship. Then the Bruins showed what their team was made for as they would come alive in the playoffs. The Maple Leafs would give them the most problems forcing a game 7 and forcing the Bruins to come back from a three run deficit in Game 7. After the initial scare it would only take another 9 games, 5 against New York and 4 against Pittsburgh, to make it into the Stanley Cup Finals. Throughout the playoffs the Bruins have used the one thing that separates them from every other team in the NHL. They have used their size and strength to overpower teams that have been faster and more skilled than them. They are the Big Bad Bruins again as they have the ability to score goals but have to wear down their opponents to get the openings. The key to their wins so far is forcing other teams to try to overpower them which is a big mistake. The Bruins will grind out wins and force mistakes that they will be take advantage of and will use to get the goals they need to win games. The Bruins were never supposed to be here when the playoffs started or even when they would be matched against the Stanley Cup favorite Pittsburgh Penguins but they have proved everyone wrong. While doing that they have been the most dominant team in the playoffs this year and are hoping to do it once again to win their second Championship in three years.

 

Storyline:
A City on their Back
– In April Boston was rocked to the core when two bombs were set-off at the Boston Marathon and although a Boston win won’t change much it will bring a city together that still needs something to cheer for

Player to Watch:
Tuukka Rask, G
– When Tim Thomas announced he would take the season off Tuukka Rask was handed the team and did a good job in the regular season but the playoffs have been a different story as he has been lights out and will be the difference between a Stanley Cup and finishing second

How They Win:
Be the Big Bad Bruins
– The Bruins have gotten here because they are playing a game that many people cannot match and that is what they need to do if they hope to win another Stanley Cup as they have to overpower the Blackhawks and wear them down to force mistakes

 

Chicago Blackhawks

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The Blackhawks are back and they were expected to be here the entire season after an almost record year. The Blackhawks went into the shortened season with high expectations as many people though they would be back to the finals this year. It seemed that in a shortened season the teams that were more complete would be the favorites. The Blackhawks would prove their hype to be true though as they would go on a run almost never seen before in the NHL. Chicago would earn a point in their first 25 games of the year essentially guaranteeing them a spot in the playoffs before the halfway mark of the season. The Blackhawks would end the streak at 25 but would still remain one of the best teams in the league heading into the playoffs. They would walk through the Minnesota Wild in the first round but then would meet a formidable opponent in the second round. Going to seven games against the Detroit Red Wings would take a lot but the win would give them second life as they would then dispatch the Kings in five games. The Blackhawks have not been the most dominant team in the playoffs like the Boston Bruins as their stars have gone missing at times. Still they seem to get the goals when they need them and have beat some good teams on their way to the finals. Now they are four games away from another title and will have to avoid the traps of other teams that have fallen to the Bruins. The Blackhawks are not the biggest and toughest team in the NHL but they are one of the most skilled. With more than just one line of scorers the Blackhawks can get scoring from any of their lines. The skill on the team can overwhelm others as there is no break for teams that might not be able to keep up. Meanwhile their defence has been just as good with Corey Crawford playing great and letting the offence take the risks that they are known for. The Blackhawks need to avoid getting into a physical battle in this series and they need to use their speed and skill to overwhelm a bigger team. If they can do it they will earn another championship and continue to be one of the best teams of a generation.

 

Storyline:
The New Dynasty
– The Blackhawks have become that team that dominates the headlines year after year as they constantly look great every year and winning another championship could put them in the conversation for the dynasty of the era

Player to Watch:
Jonathan Toews, C
– Captain Serious has not had his usual performance in the playoffs this year as he has gone missing in some series but his performance in the overtime of Game 5 against the LA Kings may be evidence that he is picking his game up to a new level which is dangerous for the Bruins

How They Win:
Don’t try to out-tough the Bruins
– The Penguins fell into this pattern in the Eastern Conference Finals as they would try to out hit and intimidate the Bruins but the Blackhawks are not built like this and if they try to be the tougher team they will lose as they need to use skill not toughness to win

 

Stanley Cup Finals:
Boston Bruins 4 – 3 Chicago Blackhawks
– The Boston Bruins are the best team in the playoffs right now and they have been able to get more skilled teams to play their game which the Blackhawks may fall in to in this series giving the Bruins the chance to take advantage and win their second Stanley Cup in three years after a hard-fought 7 game series

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