Bruins, Blackhawks set to face off

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Bruins, Blackhawks set to face off

A Stanley Cup classic 86 years in the making hits the ice as the Boston Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks, two of the National Hockey League’s charter clubs, face off in a best-of-seven final dripping with nostalgia and mystery.

The first Original Six showdown for Lord Stanley’s famous silver mug since 1979 may harken back to the days before expansion, but despite their rich histories when the series opens on Wednesday in Chicago, it will mark the first time the two storied franchises have clashed in a Stanley Cup final.

“The tradition of the Bruins and the Hawks is special,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. “I’m sure, the rivalry could return instantly come Game 1.

“I think it’s good for the league. It’s good for hockey. Two great hockey markets.”

Chicago last hoisted the Cup in 2010 while the Bruins, winners in 2011, would like nothing more than to parade the treasured trophy trough the streets of Boston that were left silent and empty after the Boston Marathon bombings on April 15 that left three people dead and 264 injured.

The final marks the finish line of a punishing two-month playoff marathon and could provide a thrilling climax to a tumultuous season that nearly never was after a bitter labor dispute shortened the schedule to just 48 games.

Memories of the lockout now appear all but forgotten, washed away by an intriguing playoff race that has left standing two teams that have not played each other in almost two years.

Boston and Chicago enter the final on impressive rolls, the Blackhawks winners of seven of the last eight games and the Bruins winning nine of 10, including a stunning sweep of the top-seeded Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference final.

But the road to the Cup does not come without a few bumps with each team surviving a seven-game scare, Boston against the Toronto Maple Leafs in the opening round and Chicago against the Detroit Red Wings in the Western Conference semifinals.

Cornered by the Maple Leafs, down 4-2 with under 90 seconds to play in Game 7, the Bruins showed their teeth in frightening fashion, scoring two late goals and another in overtime to advance.

The Bruins remained in a snarly mood, crushing the New York Rangers in five games, then mauling Sidney Crosby and the Penguins to get back to the final for the second time in three years.

Chicago spent the entire campaign atop the West standings, setting a record by earning points in each of their first 24 games on way to claiming the Presidents’ Trophy, as the NHL team with the best regular-season record.

But like the Bruins, Chicago also needed to pull off a miraculous escape to keep their Cup dreams alive, going down 3-1 to the Red Wings before sweeping the last three games and capping the comeback with a Game 7 overtime winner from defenseman Brent Seabrook.

The Blackhawks then clinched a spot in the final by clinically dispatching the defending champion Los Angeles Kings in five games.

The final also will be a fascinating clash of styles, with the “Big, Bad Bruins’?” punishing, hit-anything-that-moves approach against the speedy Blackhawks finesse and puck possession game.

While the Blackhawks have the marquee names, the Bruins view themselves as a Band of Brothers, typified by fourth liner Gregory Campbell who broke his leg throwing himself in front of a slap shot in Game 3 against the Penguins but stayed on the ice to finish his shift.

“That’s the way I feel a team should be, nobody should be on a pedestal,” said Bruins coach Claude Julien. “There’s a lot of guys in there that you could easily put on a pedestal. Not only are they not put on a pedestal, they don’t want to be put on a pedestal.”

Reuters

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