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Bruins are built to be champions, again

Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff  June 12, 2013 10:32 AM

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CHICAGO -- Just in case your game-day ire for the Chicago Blackhawks somehow requires further raising, well, there's this:

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Of course, for those of you who still refuse to believe that Robert Gordon Orr ever skated a shift for anyone other than the Bruins, the proof here is hardly 100 percent conclusive -- the jersey is clearly airbrushed, as evidenced by the Bruins player behind him.

Besides, as anyone familiar with Orr's departure from Boston knows, the real hatred -- and that is the right word -- should be aimed at Alan Eagleson, not the Chicago franchise.

But beyond contrived Bobby Orr debates, it actually seems like it would be pretty tough for a Bruins fan to work up any antagonism for the Blackhawks beyond their current status as the team standing in the way of Boston's second Stanley Cup in three years.

Their mutual Original Six status certainly does not make for a natural rivalry. Wednesday's Game 1 is their first meeting this season, their two scheduled regular-season games lost as casualties of the lockout.

The last time the Bruins and Blackhawks played, on Oct. 15, 2011, the Bruins won, 3-2, on a Tyler Seguin shootout goal. I'll pause here while you ask if that's the last time he put a puck in the net.

But the real reason the Blackhawks are an opponent worthy of respect? They are very much like the Bruins. You could see yourself rooting for Chicago if the opponent were the Rangers, Penguins, Leafs, or pretty much any team other than the one that is responsible for so much of your wardrobe featuring the colors black and gold.

The Bruins have won 9 of 10 games, starting with their already-legendary comeback against the Maple Leafs in Game 7 of their first-round series. The Blackhawks have won 7 of 8 after falling behind, 3-1, to the Red Wings in the second round.

They feature a gifted offensive star in Patrick Kane, whose hat trick in Game 5 of the Western Conference finals delivered the Blackhawks to this point. The Bruins counter with David Krejci, who is the leading scorer in the playoffs (21 points), just as he was during the Cup run two years ago.

They have an admired Selke Trophy candidate in Jonathan Toews, who means to Chicago what Patrice Bergeron does to Boston. Bryan Bickell, with eight goals in the postseason, has been their Milan Lucic. There's even a genuine shutdown defensive pairing, a la Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg, in Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook.

Their goalie, Corey Crawford, was a backup when the Blackhawks won the Cup in 2010, just as Tuukka Rask was a season later for the champion Bruins. Now they're both trying to prove that they can backstop a team to a title, and they are making a similar case that they are up to the challenge. Crawford's 1.74 goals-against average in the playoffs is 0.01 lower than Rask's.

It's an incredibly even matchup, one that seems destined to be a classic. Yet I'm picking the Bruins to prevail with relative confidence.

Why?

Because Rask's performance against Pittsburgh -- two goals allowed in four games -- was matter-of-fact brilliance, matching and perhaps surpassing anything Tim Thomas accomplished two years ago.

Because Zdeno Chara, whose precise dominance was something several Blackhawks cited as something they respect about the Bruins, and the rest of the defense is working in such incredible synch with the goaltender.

Because they are ever-so-slightly deeper, and with 17 players remaining from their championship team two years ago, the trust is there that they can win together.

It took seven games two years ago. It will take one game fewer this time around.

And as with the beloved Orr-led champs of 1970 and '72, the city will have two hockey titles to celebrate in a span of three seasons.

Here's to beating a worthy opponent, and enjoying the journey through the Cup Finals, all the way to a parade.

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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