After a string of sub-par performances to kick off 2014, our beloved Chicago Blackhawks gave themselves a much needed kick by taking down the league-leading Anaheim Ducks this past Friday. Highlights of the W included Marian Hossa tallying yet another short-handed goal and million dollar man Bryan Bickell getting a much needed score, which he celebrated by laying out fellow forward Kris Versteeg (he’s okay folks!). PS – Hawks goalie Corey Crawford robbed himself of a shutout by letting in two late third period goals, but got his first win since returning from the IR.
Well, after two days of reveling in their recent victory, the Blackhawks are once again facing a tough opponent as they are visited by a familiar foe this morning: the Boston Bruins. Every once and a while, I’ve contemplated what it must have been like for a Bruins fan during Game 6 of last year’s Stanley Cup Finals: being on the verge of forcing a Game 7 where anything could happen, only to have all your hopes of a Stanley Cup hoisting dashed away in a mere 17 seconds. I shudder at the thought. Funny thing though, this past summer I met a Boston native and avid Bruins fan in Chicago on business at Benchmark in Old Town (or as he called it Benchmach), and when discussing being on the receiving end of such a devastating loss, he said it still hurts but those kind of moments are what makes hockey great.
Nevertheless, there will no doubt be a lot of emotions on ice at the Madhouse on Madison this Sunday morn, as old wounds will be reopened and old grudges revisited. These two Original Six teams have an intimate knowledge of each other and even though Bruins players like Patrice Bergeron are taking the predictable high road and saying the 2013 Stanley Cup Finals are “in the past…you’ve got to move on,” a win at against the team that robbed you of your glory half a year ago would be a huge morale victory.
That being said, a win against the Bruins would be a vital morale booster for the Hawks as well. Boston is the second best team in the Eastern Conference right now and Bruins netminder Tuuka Rask is certainly having a Vezina Trophy-caliber season; leading the NHL with five shutouts, which makes me cringe a bit considering how poorly the Blackhawks have fared against hot goalies so far this year, i.e. Semyon Varlamov and Carey Price. The Hawks also haven’t fared too well against Original Six teams this season, having lost to both the Toronto Maple Leafs and New York Rangers in regulation and the Montreal Canadiens in OT.
Suffice it to say the Hawks need a win today for the aforementioned reasons, as well as proving to themselves they can beat two Cup-contending teams back to back. I mentioned that in order to beat the Anaheim Ducks, the Hawks needed to get a three goal lead to seal the deal, and they did just that (my Magic 8-Ball has more than paid for itself at this point), but against the Bruins, I feel the Hawks don’t need such a game-plan laid out. They have proved they are better than the Bruins on the most important stage in hockey.
However, this game is far from in the bag for the Hawks. As I mentioned earlier, the Bruins are going to understandably be bringing a lot of baggage to this game, and the Hawks are going to have to be in Stanley Cup Champion form to walk away with the W against an emotionally charged team. When the Hawks won the Cup against the Philadelphia Flyers in 2010, the next time the teams met the Flyers drubbed the Hawks 4-1, and we all know how that season ended. Call me superstitious, but that’s why for me, a win against last year’s Stanley Cup runners up is pretty darn important. Let’s hope our boys in red, white and black feel the same way. It should be a great game to watch over brunch, so make sure those mimosas are flowing!
FOR THE DAGGER!