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In deep field, Bruins have fighting chance

Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff  May 30, 2013 12:04 PM

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I believe it was my colleague Kevin Paul Dupont -- I like to think of him as the Adam Oates to my Clayton Beddoes during our Globe 10.0 appearances -- who was the first to note over the weekend that the final five teams remaining in the Stanley Cup playoff were the last five Stanley Cup winners.

With the Chicago Blackhawks' predictably epic Game 7 overtime victory Wednesday night over the Red Wings, there are now four teams remaining. And those four teams -- the Blackhawks, Penguins, defending champion Kings, and your champion-once-removed Boston Bruins -- have accounted for the last four Cups.

The NHL postseason is always one of the greatest extended thrill rides sports has to offer. But beyond the noticeable absence of a Canadian entry, it's hard to imagine it being any better than it is right now, with these four sublime teams remaining.

I'm not sure, in this lockout-altered season, if the league and its franchise owners deserve such good fortune, such compelling final chapters to a season that began in shame.

But the fans sure do. And it's even a little more fun if you look at the final foursome on a micro level. I loved this:

It really is a tournament of champions at this point (though that Blackhawks number is surprisingly low -- they really did some major roster remodeling beyond Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and their other stars).

If we're able to put aside parochialism, wouldn't we have to admit that if the four finalists were seeded on their probability of winning the Cup, the Bruins would probably be ... fourth?

It's already been a remarkable run, with the Game 7 escape from the grave against the Leafs, then the humbling of the Rangers in five games in the second round. But the road to the Cup is far more challenging that it was two years ago -- every team remaining this postseason, plus the Red Wings, is arguably superior to the Canucks team that took the Bruins to seven games in '11.

(In the spirit of gaining any advantage by any means, maybe the Bruins could hire the deposed John Tortorella as an assistant coach in charge of staring hate lasers at Sidney Crosby until he whines to the referee about it?)

crosbysidneyfinn530.JPGSo let's forget the Western Conference for now. The task at hand is daunting enough. The Bruins are going to have to be brilliant to beat the loaded Penguins, who somehow took Milan Lucic's comparison to the Miami Heat as an offense, when it's a complimentary truth. They loaded up and are built to win now, and there's nothing wrong with that. That's what they should do with Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, two of the world's most dynamic players, healthy and at their peak, and so much complementary skill and support up and down the roster.

But this is not to suggest the Bruins are running into a buzzsaw like the 1988 or '90 Edmonton Oilers, or even the '91 Penguins of Jaromir Jagr's mulleted youth. With a goaltending advantage in Tuukka Rask, four quality lines, a do-it-all star in Patrice Bergeron, and a multi-skilled corps of defensemen, they are not a comfortable matchup for the Penguins.

The Bruins can do this. More important, they know they can do this. Such a mindset, that universal confidence in yourself and your teammates, it's more important than any other motive, though revenge against Jarome Iginla for choosing Pittsburgh over Boston sure would be a sweet dessert.

But that's a daydream for now. Reality reignites on Saturday, with eight wins down for the Bruins, and eight to go. Every one of those necessary eight will have to be earned, one shift at a time, one save at a time, with each small in-game win leading to a larger one, the sacrifices along the way ranging from personal glory to perhaps an incisor or two.

Even with a consistent offering of their best effort, the Bruins could still fall short of the goal. Given the competition, there would be no shame in that. The Bruins, with those 18 champions on their roster, know what it takes this time of year, but so does every other opponent they will face off against.

But who knows -- perhaps the enhanced degree of difficulty this time around will make it all the more sweeter should they emerge as the champion among champions. I cannot wait for the puck to drop, so we can finally get back to discovering what they are truly capable of achieving.

About Touching All The Bases

Irreverence and insight from Chad Finn, a Globe/Boston.com sports writer and media columnist. A winner of several national and regional writing awards, he is the founder and sole contributor to the TATB blog, which launched in December 2004. Yes, he realizes how lucky he is.

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