Key for Bruins, Blackhawks has been stability
The pink hats that have joined the Bruins party the last few years will be excused but it’s a perfect time for a little refresher course on how drastically things have changed for the Bruins and Blackhawks in recent years. How two Original Six teams went from complete afterthoughts in their own hockey-loving American cities to become two of the model franchises in the NHL. Starting on Wednesday (8 p.m., NBC) in Game 1, Boston goes for its second Stanley Cup in three years while Chicago is looking for its second in four years, but it wasn’t all that long ago that TD Garden and United Center were far from sold-out each night.
Things got so bad for the Blackhawks that for a time their games were blacked out in Chicago … seriously. The Bruins never reached that San Diego Chargers type of low but that is what happens when you don’t win a Cup for 49 years or 39 year,s respectively. Winning a Cup can completely change the fortune of a franchise, it also helps that both play in great hockey markets so fans don’t need many extra reasons to go to the games, watch them on TV and buy the merchandise. Chicago has 10 guys left on the active roster from 2010 and Boston has 16 (17 if you count Gregory Campbell). The biggest difference is in net where Corey Crawford was the third-string goaltender during Chicago’s Cup run (he didn’t play a minute that postseason) while Tuukka Rask was Tim Thomas’s backup (also never seeing the ice).
With free agency, injuries, trades and up and down performances, it’s so hard for teams to stay at the same level in the NHL (hence why there hasn’t been a repeat Stanley Cup champion since 1998). But a main reason why these two teams are still alive in 2013 is that their nucleus has basically stayed the same in the past few years. The leading scorers for the Blackhawks in their 2010 run were Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp and Duncan Keith. Add Marian Hossa and Bryan Bickell (who were both on that team) to 2013’s leading scorers and you have a similar scoresheet. For Boston, its top four scorers on the 2011 championship squad were David Krejci, Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and Nathan Horton. Sound familiar? Entering these Finals, the B’s leading scorers are Krejci, Horton, Milan Lucic and Marchand (Bergeron is just two points behind Marchand).
What this all means is anyone’s best guess. The Bruins and Blackhawks will rightfully tell you that every season is different and with good reason. I can guarantee that none of them will be thinking about those memorable seasons over the next few weeks. They’ll be too focused on the task at hand. Still, it’s interesting for us to see all the similarities shared between these proud teams that are back on top in the NHL.
Follow Metro Boston Bruins beat writer Richard Slate on Twitter @RichSlate