Few have accused the NHL of being scripted but the NBA or WWE couldn’t have done a better job of setting up the perfect 2013 Stanley Cup Finals: Bruins vs. Blackhawks. It’s certainly safe to say that the lockout from this past winter is dead and buried at this point. Thanks to Chicago’s 4-3 win in double overtime on Saturday night vs. Los Angeles, the Blackhawks advance to the first Original Six finals since 1979 (Rangers vs. Canadiens). Boston has never faced Chicago in the finals and it’s only the third time in pro sports history that a Boston team has faced a Chicago team for a title: Super Bowl XX (Patriots vs. Bears) and the 1918 World Series (Red Sox vs. Cubs). In case you forgot, the Bruins won the Cup in 2011, the year after the Blackhawks broke their own long drought with a Cup of their own.
Chicago was the top team in the NHL all season, thanks to their NHL-record 24 game win streak (half the shortened season) to start 2013 campaign. Predictably, things haven’t gone as smoothly in the playoffs. The Blackhawks overwhelmed the Wild in five games in the first round before finding themselves in a 3-1 hole against their bitter rivals, the Red Wings, in the quarterfinals. Chicago showed its character by rallying for three straight wins and they continued that great play in the Western Conference Finals against the Kings - a worthy champion - by eliminating them in five games. Much like the Bruins after their once in a lifetime rally against the Maple Leafs in Game 7, the Blackhawks have been on fire since Game 5 vs. Detroit. Boston enters having won nine of its last 10 games while Chicago has won seven of its last eight contests.
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The Blackhawks are another squad loaded with top-notch talent. Patrick Kane (6 goals, 8 assists) had struggled for much of the postseason but he had a hat trick in Game 5 vs. LA, including the game-winner. Jonathan Toews (1 goal, 8 assists) hasn’t found his goal-scoring touch but Chicago’s captain plays a two-way game that closely resembles that of Patrice Bergeron. Marian Hossa (7 goals, 7 assists) is competing in his fourth Stanley Cup Finals, Patrick Sharp (8 goals, 6 assists) has been consistent, Bryan Bickell (8 goals, 5 assists) is playing the best hockey of his life and Duncan Keith (2 goals, 9 assists) is one of the NHL’s best offensive defensemen. Coming into the playoffs, most people felt that goaltender Corey Crawford (1.74 GAA, .935 save percentage, 1 shutout) was Chicago’s weak link but he’s outplayed Jimmy Howard and Jonathan Quick in the past two rounds, answering his critics.
With two great American sports cities involved, it should be a ratings bonanza for NBC and execs at the TV network would like nothing more than a long series between these two storied franchises. With the way things have played out in the playoffs so far, who’d bet against it?
Follow Metro Boston Bruins beat writer Richard Slate on Twitter @RichSlate