In a few hours, the puck will drop on the 2013 Stanley Cup Finals and the Chicago Blackhawks should know if they take care of the Boston Bruins, they’ll go down as one of the NHL greatest teams of all time.
It’s already been a magical run for the team that calls the Madhouse on Madison on home.
First, the Hawks got off to a 21-0-3 start, the best start ever in NHL annals.
They went on to finish the regular season 36-7-5, earning 77 points (tops in the NHL) en route to the Presidents’ Trophy.
Those 77 points are even more impressive when you consider they were earned in a lockout shortened season that included 48 games compared to the 82 games that normal regular seasons include.
Now, having disposed of Minnesota in five games, Detroit in seven and the LA Kings, the defending Stanley Cup champions, in five, Coach Joel Quenneville’s bunch enters the finals with an overall record of 48-12-5, a winning percentage of .777.
A look back in the record books shows just how special this Hawks team has been.
The 1976-77 Montreal Canadiens, widely considered the greatest NHL team of all time, went 60-8-12 (a winning percentage of .825). The 1983-84 Edmonton Oilers finished the regular season 57-18-5 (.744), while the 1981-82 New York Islanders went 54-16-10 (.738). Finally, the 1995-96 Detroit Red Wings were 62-13-7 (.799), setting the record for most wins in a season.
It’s hard to fathom how Boston will win the Cup for the second time in three years considering how well the Hawks are playing in all facets.
Chicago is getting stellar goal tending from Corey Crawford. Its defense, which allowed a league-low 102 goals in the regular season and has permitted 33 goals in 17 play-off games, is second to none and it gets consistent scoring from all four lines.
Making the Hawks an even tougher matchup for the Bruins is the fact that star winger Patrick Kane is on a roll, having recorded a hat trick in the double overtime win over the Kings that clinched the Western Conference Championship.
This is a Blackhawk team that enters Game One tonight with five players in double figures scoring in the playoffs. Patrick Sharp, Kane and Marian Hossa lead the way with 14, while Bryan Bickell, who will be an unrestricted free agent next month, has 13 (tied for team-high honors with eight goals) and defenseman Duncan Keith has 11.
If the Hawks have a weakness, it was supposed to be between the pipes in Crawford. However, he has made believers out of just about everyone who doubted him. Crawford has had a dream season, which has included an awfully impressive 1.74 goals against average and 93.5 save percentage in the play-offs.
Chicago presents Boston will several problems as you can tell. It’ll face a team that was the best the NHL had to offer in the regular season, is having a great play-off run and might be playing its best hockey of the year – considering it has won seven of its last eight games – which is downright scary.
On paper, it should be a short series, but play-off hockey is anything but certain. Just ask the Pittsburgh Penguins.
If the Hawks avoid being upset and are skating the Cup around in a week or two, they’ll definitely deserve to be mentioned with some of the NHL’s best of all time.
Doug Griffiths is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and the US Basketball Writers Association. Doug is a columnist/writer for RantSports. Follow him on Twitter @ISLgriffiths and Facebook.