CHICAGO – Even the players get caught up in the aura of an Original Six matchup in the Stanley Cup Finals, the first since the Canadiens beat the Rangers in five games in the 1979 finals.
“It’s pretty amazing,” said Bryan Bickell, the breakout star of the postseason for the Blackhawks with eight goals, one shy of his regular-season total. “It’s something you think about. With all of the history between these two cities, it’s hard to believe this is the first time they’ve met for the Cup.”
“It would be a great matchup without that aspect to it,” added Blackhawks star Patrick Kane. “That just brings it to another level, that it means something historically.”
The lengthy – if not often shared – history of two of the league’s most storied franchise’s was a popular topic at Tuesday’s media day at the United Center. The Blackhawks took the podium earlier in the day, with the Bruins arriving mid-afternoon, and the hosts couldn’t have been more respectful of their opponent.
Make no mistake: They took notice of what the Bruins’ defense and goalie Tuukka Rask did to the Penguins in the Eastern Conference Finals, sweeping the series in four while shutting out Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin and limiting the potent Penguins to two total goals.
“For them to beat the Penguins is a huge feat,” said Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews. “And the way they did it, in four games. They didn’t take a single night off. I’m sure their confidence is high.”
Kane, whose winning goal in double overtime completed a hat trick and gave the Blackhawks a series-clinching 4-3 victory over the Kings in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals, said facing 6-foot-9-inch Bruins captain Zdeno Chara is an experience that is difficult to prepare for.
“We haven’t played anyone with his reach, the way he deflects pucks on the power play. But we just have to play our game, play hard. We can’t worry about Zdeno Chara.
“You saw what they did to Pittsburgh,” Kane added. “They didn’t give them many goals or even many chances. We just have to do what we can do as a team. Hopefully that means score some more goals and control the puck like we have most of the year. But by no means is it going to be easy.”
Particularly if Rask, who owns a 1.75 goals-against average and a league-leading .943 save percentage in the playoffs, continues to perform at an elite level every night. But the Blackhawks, for all of the offensive dynamics, aren’t lacking in net like the Penguins were – Corey Crawford has a 1.74 GAA in the postseason.
So which team has the advantage in net?
“Seems like we ask that question at the beginning of every series,” said the Blackhawks’ Patrick Sharp. “Goalies are so important this time of year. The Bruins don’t give up a whole lot, and it was impressive what they did against the Penguins. Rask was a huge part of that.”
But Kane said as good as Rask and Chara have been, there’s more to the Bruins’ prowess. A lot more.
“They’re very good as a five-man unit,” Kane said. “They really skate up and down the ice together. You see five guys in the picture together all the time. You can’t have too many turnovers on them because no matter what line it is, they’re so good at transition hockey and going the other way. It’s going to be a tough series, we know that.”