Analysis: All signs point to a Blackhawks-Bruins Stanley Cup Final
Nam Y. Huh, AP
After the 6-1 beatdown the Boston Bruins put on the Pittsburgh Penguins on Monday, the two remaining Original Six teams in the NHL playoffs — Boston and Chicago — look poised to meet in the Stanley Cup Final.
If that occurs, it will be the first all-Original Six matchup in the Final in 34 years. The Original Six are the six teams that composed the NHL for 25 years from the 1942-43 season before it expanded in 1967.
In the Western Conference, the Presidents' Trophy-winning Chicago Blackhawks are up 2-0 on the defending Cup champion Los Angeles Kings. The solid goaltending of Corey Crawford and the incredible depth of the 'Hawks allowed them to win the first two games at the United Center.
Andrew Shaw, Michal Handzus and Bryan Bickell — not the players usually carrying Chicago's offense — all scored in Game 2 and forced Kings coach Darryl Sutter — a former captain of the Blackhawks — to pull 2012's NHL playoff MVP Jonathan Quick after he allowed four goals on 17 shots.
Indeed, the Blackhawks are showing why they started the season with an NHL record 24-game point streak. They have won their last five games going back to last round's seven-game series win over rival Detroit. Crawford leads all goalies in the playoffs with a 1.68 goals against average, and has given up two goals or fewer in 10 of his 14 playoff starts.
Even more disheartening for Kings fans are Chicago's two best players. Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane have only combined for three goals in the entire postseason after teaming up for 46 during the regular season, yet the 'Hawks are still winning. If those two find the back of the net, it's over.
The Kings can take solace in their 2-0 deficit comeback against the St. Louis Blues this postseason, and they've won their last 14 home games. However, L.A. leading scorer Mike Richards won't be in tonight's Game 3 lineup due to an upper-body injury suffered in Game 1.
In the East, the Pittsburgh Penguins, the NHL's regular-season scoring leader at 3.38 goals per game, have only beat Boston goaltender Tuukka Rask once in two games. Boston has made the world's best player, Sidney Crosby, look average. He had a game-high five giveways last night, including a gaffe in his offensive zone that led to Brad Marchand's first goal.
The series shifts back to Beantown on Wednesday where the Bruins are 5-2 in the playoffs and winners of their last four. The Bruins lead the league with 37 shots on goal per game in the playoffs and have put nine past the Pen's the past two games, creating another goaltending controversy.
Marc-Andre Fleury relieved Tomas Vokoun in Game 2 after Vokoun gave up three goals in the first period. Fleury gave up three of his own, however, including one on the first shot he faced. Fleury, Pittsburgh's franchise goalie, was benched in favor of Vokoun after Fluery gave up several soft goals against the New York Islanders.
Jarome Iginla must be kicking himself.
Iginla, a longtime captain of the Calgary Flames, hasn't won the Cup in his storied 16-year career. The Flames had a deadline trade in place with the Bruins to send him to Boston, but Iginla reneged at the last minute and said he wanted to play with Crosby and the Penguins. Think he regrets that decision?
If the Bruins and 'Hawks take care of business, it will be the first Orginal Six matchup in the Stanley Cup Final since Montreal beat the New York Rangers in 1979. Since then, there has been one Original Six team in the final 15 times, and they're 9-6 in those series.
The Blackhawks ended a 49-year cup drought in 2010 with a win over the Flyers, and the Bruins ended their own 39-year run without Lord Stanley's Cup in 2011 with a seven-game victory over Vancouver. There's a great chance that fans of one of those two franchises won't have to wait years for another cup. More than likely, it will only be a couple of weeks.
Michael Smith is an intern in the news section of DeseretNews.com. A 2013 graduate of the University of Utah, he will be attending Northwestern's Medill School of Journalism in the fall.
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