During the course of a championship run, almost every team faces some sort of adversity en route to claiming the title. To say the Chicago Blackhawks and Boston Bruins faced their share of adversity on the way to meeting each other in the Stanley Cup Finals is a severe understatement.
The Blackhawks had a magical regular season as they claimed the President’s Trophy for the league’s top record. The Hawks set an NHL record by starting the season unbeaten in regulation in 24 straight games. The Hawks then rolled past the Minnesota Wild in the first round in just five games as they continued to dominate.
Then, for really the first time all season, the Hawks had a major dose of reality.
After comfortably beating the Detroit Red Wings 4-1 in Game 1 of their second round series, the wheels started to fall off for the Hawks.
The Wings claimed Game 2 with their own 4-1 victory before heading back to Detroit. The Wings then defeated the Hawks both games in Detroit to take a commanding 3-1 series lead. Over the course of the first four games of the series the Wings were the sharper and more disciplined team.
The normally mild-mannered Jonathan Toews became an undisciplined mess, as he was taking bad penalties and was thrown off his game due to the shadowing effort against him by Henrik Zetterberg.
The Hawks were getting dominated in the face-off circle and barely resembled the team that tore through the regular season. The three straight losses to the Wings was the Hawks’ first three-game losing streak all season, as it looked like the dream season was all but over.
A dominant Game 5, however, kept the Hawks alive and put them back on track. Trailing 2-1 after two periods in Detroit for Game 6, it appeared the Hawks were once again in dire straits. However, a three-goal outburst in the third period won the game and put all the pressure back on the Wings for Game 7 in Chicago.
Tied 1-1 late in the third period of Game 7, it appeared Niklas Hjalmarsson won the game for the Hawks, but a questionable call negated the goal as the game headed to overtime. Despite the bad call, the Hawks regrouped yet again and won the game on a deflected Brent Seabrook shot in overtime to finish the 3-1 series comeback.
The Bruins meanwhile were almost on the opposite side of a 3-1 series collapse.
Up 3-1 in their opening round series against the rival Toronto Maple Leafs, the Bruins played sloppy hockey and allowed the Leafs to force a Game 7 in Boston.
In Game 7, the Leafs blitzed the Bruins and led the game 4-1 in the third period. All appeared to be lost as the Bruins still trailed by three with roughly 10 minutes left in the third period.
Then history happened.
Nathan Horton scored a goal to make it 4-2, breathing life into the Bruins. Unbelievably, both Milan Lucic and Patrice Bergeron scored in the final minutes with the goalie pulled to force overtime. The Bruins capped off their historic comeback as Bergeron netted the game-winner, propelling the Bruins on a run to the finals. It was the first time in NHL postseason history that a team won a playoff game trailing by three in the third period, showing just how much adversity the Bruins had to overcome.
The Bruins have gone 8-1 since they were pushed to the brink of elimination by the Leafs, and they have been the most dominating team in the postseason since their historic comeback.
Thus, with both the Blackhawks and Bruins looking to claim their second championship in the last five seasons, each team has already battled major adversity. No matter which team ends up hoisting the Stanley Cup, they can look back upon the adversity they faced earlier in the playoffs and know it helped springboard them to a championship.
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