It's been two weeks since the Red Wings bowed out of the Stanley Cup playoffs, and despite my several letters of protest and angry tweets, the playoffs have continued.
Tonight the Western Conference champion Chicago Blackhawks will host the Eastern Conference Boston Bruins in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals. Vegas oddsmakers have installed the Hawks as slight favorites to win the Cup, which in the grand scheme means nothing because oddsmakers are just above sports columnists in terms of overall intelligence.
Much like 1995, this series pits the "best team in the league" against the "hottest team in the league", and if you're like me, you don't remember what happened in 1995 because you drank that memory away. It's the first time two Original 6 teams will face off in the Finals since 1979, and you have to know league executives are happier with this matchup versus the last time we came out of a lockout.
We here at WIIM have got you covered to give you the ins and outs of the Finals. Let's take a look at the two teams:
How they got here: The Bruins were half a period away from being eliminated in the first round after nearly squandering a 3-1 series lead. Fortunately they were playing the Maple Leafs, who like their mayor found holding on to something too difficult. From there it's been pretty smooth sailing for Boston: they've gone 8-1 in their last 9 games, including a sweep against the Penguins that everyone found hilarious.
Who's Hot: If you had David Krejci and Nathan Horton as the top-2 playoff scorers after three rounds, then you need to pass lottery ticket numbers on to me because you're the only one who saw that coming. Krejci and Horton have 21 and 17 points, respectively, and Horton is a ridiculous +21 in only 16 games.
Who's Not: It's tough to pick out anyone on a team that has won 9 of their last 10 games, but Tyler Seguin is scoring at a significantly lower rate than when he was a younger man. Ty only has 1 goal in the playoffs so far, and against a potent Chicago offense he'll have to be better.
Key to the series: Can Tuuka Rask continue his brilliance? Against the Penguins Rask was insane, posting a 0.44 GAA and a .985 SV%. It was the kind of dominance not seen since J.S. Giguere stopped 876 shots against the Red Wings in the first round of 2003, and if Rask plays the way he did against the league's best regular season offense, the Blackhawks could be in trouble.
Reasons to want them to lose: The Bruins don't have a roster of extremely likable players, and their fans haven't exactly endeared themselves to the hockey world. They're like Red Wing fans without the historical reasons to be arrogant.
Reasons to want them to win: They're playing the Blackhawks.
How they got here: The Hawks dispatched the Wild in a pretty non-eventful series before playing some games in the second round (strangely I seem to have blocked out this series from my memory) before eliminating the defending champion Kings is a close-but-short Conference Finals. Since falling behind 3-1 to the Red Wings, the Hawks have won 7 of their last 8 games.
Who's Hot: Patrick Kane scored 4 goals in the final 2 games against Los Angeles, including a hat trick in the series-clinching Game 5. With 2 more goals he will tie for the team lead with....Bryan Bickell?
Who's Not: Captain Serious Jonathan Toews may be known as a no-nonsense competitor, but he's quickly developing a reputation as a "kind of useless offensively in the playoffs" kind of player. 1 goal this year (a PPG against the Red Wings) gives him a grand total of 4 goals in his last 30 playoff games, not exactly the kind of offensive production one would expect from a first line center. Couple that with how he lost his mind against the Red Wings and one has to wonder whether the Bruins can get in his head and make him even more irrelevant than he's already been.
Key to the series: Can the Blackhawks' superior depth continue to carry them? While the Bruins are led by Krejci and Horton, 5 players have at least 10 points on Chicago. The Hawks have the ability to roll 4 lines and have 2 very strong scoring lines that are a threat on almost every shift.
Reasons to want them to lose: If you've visited this city at all in the last 3 weeks and seen all the new Blackhawk shirts on all the new fans, then you'll feel our pain.
Reasons to want them to win: Hahahahahahahahahahahaha.
PREDICTION: Fuck the Blackhawks. Bruins in 4. Go Bruins.