This could not have worked out any more perfectly for the always-shooting-themselves-in-the-skate National Hockey League.
Five months ago there was the very real possibility that there would be no 2012-13 season, thanks to the league’s second lockout in nine years. Now, the NHL is enjoying record ratings and global interest spurred by two of its marquee franchises, the Boston Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks.
It’s hard to believe these two storied clubs have never met in the Stanley Cup final, but the timing could not be any better. Two rabid, passionate fan bases; two teams with star power, grit, firepower and nastiness; two major markets where hockey was once, and is again, king.
So in honor of the first Original 6 championship final in 34 years, here are six reasons why the Boston Bruins will skate off with the hallowed silver chalice for the second time in three years:
1. Get in Crawford’s head. You have to figure the Blackhawks are going to come after Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask any time they have the chance by following up shots, scrapping for rebounds, bumping him after the whistle, etc. It’s to be expected. Boston, with a burlier forward corps who never mind getting into the dirty areas out front, has to do the same thing, only better, against Chicago’s Corey Crawford. Of the three teams his Hawks have beaten to reach the final, only the Los Angeles Kings come remotely close to the ferocity and never-ending aggressiveness that the Bruins bring to the net front. Plus, Crawford has seen 53 fewer shots (in one less game) than Rask; a barrage by Boston could eventually wear him down. How Crawford does (or doesn’t) handle the in-your-face stuff should go a long way in determining the series winner.