It’s been six weeks since the playoffs began, but it feels like a lifetime ago. It took a lot of anxious moments, some tense overtimes and a few missing teeth, but we’re finally at the end of the road. Tonight, the Chicago Blackhawks and Boston Bruins will begin their best of seven games to find out who’s the best team in the NHL.
On paper, the two teams seem evenly matched: strong defense, stellar goaltending, a powerful penalty kill. Each boasts a finalist for this year’s Selke Trophy in Jonathan Toews and Patrice Bergeron, though the league’s two best faceoff guys might not meet at the dot if coach Joel Quenneville has his way. His line juggling may avoid that situation for at least the first game.
The goaltending will be on display in spades. Corey Crawford and Tuukka Rask have almost the same save percentage and goals-against average and have been spectacular in net. Crawford has the ability to bounce back after a bad goal or two gets past him. After that happens, he buckles down and keeps his focus, stopping the puck with determination. Rask has catlike moves and can stop some heavy barrages in the crease. It won’t be easy getting pucks past him, but they also said that about Jonathan Quick.
If there’s one player on each team that will play a factor in this final, it’s the team pest. Andrew Shaw has the habit of getting under the other team’s skin, taking his lumps and also a stupid penalty or two. Brad Marchand is the same. If these two should collide on the ice, there may be an explosion.
Don’t expect any high-scoring games in this final unless one of these teams completely falls apart. It’ll also probably go to six or seven games, so we’re in this for the long haul. There will be tension, chirping and maybe a fight or two. Don’t be surprised if some blood is spilled.
Honestly, none of that matters. After the lockout and a season that flew by, this is the moment for which we’ve been waiting. In the words of Toews in his lousy Chevy commercial, let’s do this.