The Chicago Blackhawks took some beatings in the media over the last couple years. A remarkable amount of keystrokes tapped loud and clear on message boards. For the most part, it was deserved. The fans were upset they had to part with their fan favourites.
“See ya Andrew Ladd. Nice knowing ya Dustin Byfuglien. Yay, we finally have a goalie… oh wait, peace out Antti Niemi.”
It was overwhelming to deal with after such a long Stanley Cup drought. However, the fans, as savvy as they are weren’t going to put up with mediocrity. They needed more. No, demanded more from the front office. The bar had been set and signing Fernando Pisani, pretending John Scott was the next Big Buff and putting the wily Marty Turco between the pipes with what appeared to be my old Road Warrior street hockey pads, wasn’t going to cut it.
Two 1st round exits and a NHL lockout later, here we stand. The Hawks make the finals with a team showing clear signs of long-term greatness. They have depth in spades and the names that are screamed relentlessly from my man-cave couch becoming household names to the rest of the hockey community.
The window of opportunity for the Hawks to win is still very much open and should be for the next few years. Toews and Kane have a couple more years left on their contracts, Hossa’s still truckin’ along but who knows how much longer he will remain a dominant force.
Bryan Bickell has this great looking Stanley Cup ring to go along with the incredible memories of bringing the Cup to Bowmanville, Ontario in the summer of 2010. I believe the fact that his name is not engraved on that big, shiny, silver trophy thing, is the main reason for his extraordinary play this post-season though. Some may cite it’s because he’s in his contract year and sure that has something to do with it; but he’s a competitive dude and he knows this is a chance to make a difference this time around.
This is all sunshine and lollipops, isn’t it? I’m sure this talk about the Hawks rise back to elite status after a bloody dismantling of the 2010 team makes people’s tummies all warm inside. However (and I hate to do this) we need to take a second to respect their opponents. This is a team that poses a lot of problems for the Hawks and Claude Julien knows it!
The Boston Bruins had a scare, much like the Hawks in the early stages of their run. The B’s almost lost to what everyone called “a much inferior team” to them in the 1st round. The Toronto Maple Leafs fed off that media stance of categorizing them as the underdogs. The Leafs ran with it and played the Bruins very hard and short of that Game #7, 3rd period collapse would have defeated them.
That was the wakeup call the Bruins needed. The Hawks needed the same with Detroit putting them in a 3-1 deficit. Both teams have been rolling along at a good pace since staring death in the face. Well not quite death, it’s just a game and these players aren’t playing for John Tortorella. Hmmm… where is Brad Richards these days? Someone should check on him.
Although it is just a game, the “just go have fun out there” clichés will be left at home this series. The fact that these two teams did not face each other in the regular season will not deter them from creating a mutual hatred beyond any other starting immediately after puck drop tonight. This will no doubt be a battle and here are some individual matchups I’m looking forward to seeing:
- Super-Pest Alley: Brad Marchard vs. Andrew Shaw
- Selke Mitts: Patrice Bergeron (2012 Selke Trophy Winner) vs. Johnathan Toews (2013 Selke Trophy Nominee)
- Grocery Shopping: Milan Lucic (220 lbs) vs. Bryan Bickell (233 lbs)
“Get Excited” says Coach Q. It all starts tonight!
- Of course, the instance I write about Kaner not performing in the playoffs, he has an epic performance in game #5. He reads here ya know? For motivational support, I’ll be sure to cut him up later in the series if he’s not playing up to par.
- The Blackhawks will be looking to come out and impose some physical will against the big, bad Bruins. Brandon Bollig checks in to the playoffs for the first time since the 1st round, while Victor Stalberg finds himself on the sidelines.
- The potential resurrection of Dave Bolland helps in the decision to scratch Stalberg. Shaw moves to the wing with Bolland and Saad rounding out that line. Those wingers will have to be sound defensively as Coach Q utilized a “checking” line for a first time in the playoffs last series.
- Nick Leddy should look to emulate his counterpart on the Bruins, Troy Krug. They have similar skillsets although the confidence of late seems to be on the opposite spectrum with these players. Krug is taking shots, jumping into the play while Leddy was struggling to get out of his zone vs. LA.
- The Hawks must be better on the draws this series or Boston will hurt them from the start of each position. The onus is not just on Toews, Handzus, Bolland and Kruger – the wingers must add support.
- Prediction? Vince Vaughn takes out Mark Walberg in a concession line in game #5.
Ty Cam out!
Filed Under: Chicago Blackhawks
About the Author: I am a rare Chicago Blackhawks fan from Canada, one might describe me as a hockey connoisseur and a solid checking line centre to your local rec hockey team. I once lived in a town of 500 people and now work in the hockey mecca that is Toronto. I work in the wonderful world of Advertising and these opinions are one of my own and not of my company - don't get it twisted.