NHL Stanley Cup Final: Last Time the Bruins and Blackhawks Met in the Playoffs

Brad Kurtzberg@@sealshockeyContributor IJune 10, 2013


This year's Stanley Cup Final will feature two Original Six teams, the Chicago Blackhawks and Boston Bruins. Amazingly enough, these two teams have never met in the Finals before.

Since the teams play in different conferences, they don't meet very often in the playoffs. In fact, the last time they met in the postseason was 1978.

Yes, 1978...Jimmy Carter was in the White House, disco was king. The No. 1 song on the Billboard charts was "Night Fever" by the Bee Gees. The cost of living was lower in those days. A first-class postage stamp was just 15 cents and a gallon of gas cost 63 cents. By the end of the year, the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at 805.

The Blackhawks and Bruins both won their divisions that year, which earned them byes in the opening round of the playoffs, which back then was a best-of-three series.

Boston, coached by Don Cherry, finished with the league's second-best record at 51-18-11, good enough to win the Adams Division. Meanwhile, the Blackhawks finished 32-29-19 under Bob Pulford, which was still good enough to win the Smythe Division.

The Bruins set an NHL record that season by having 11 players score 20-or-more goals. This was Cherry's "Lunch Pail Crew," a group of players known for working hard and playing well together as a team.

They were a physical bunch with players like Terry O'Reilly, Mike Milbury, John Wensink, Stan Jonathan, Wayne Cashman and Bobby Schmautz. If you wanted to watch pretty hockey, you watched the Montreal Canadiens. If you wanted grit, you watched the Bruins.

Peter McNab led the B's with 41 goals, while O'Reilly scored a career-high 90 points to pace the club. Ron Grahame was in goal at the start of the playoffs for the Bruins after starting 40 games that season.

The Blackhawks may have finished 30 points behind the Bruins in the standings, but they were no slouches. Chicago also featured some tough players like Grant Mulvey, Keith Magnuson, Bob "Battleship" Kelly, Phil Russell and the aptly-named Ted Bulley.

They were led by goalie Tony Esposito and future Hall of Famer Stan Mikita. Ivan Boldirev led the Blackhawks with 35 goals and 80 points. Chicago also featured a 20-year-old rookie defenseman named Doug Wilson who is now the general manager of the San Jose Sharks. Bobby Orr was under contract to Chicago but did not play at all that season due to his bad knees.

The first two games of the series were in Boston and the Bruins wasted little time in taking control of the opening game. Park scored just 24 seconds into the contest. Cashman scored on the power play at 6:04 and it was quickly 2-0 Bruins.

Mulvey got Chicago on the board with a power-play goal of his own late in the period but that was as close as the Blackhawks would get.

McNab scored 21 seconds into the second period and the Bruins never looked back, taking Game 1, 6-1. McNab finished with two goals and an assist, while Grahame made 24 saves to earn the win.

Game 2 in Boston was a thriller that went into overtime. The 'Hawks came out determined to make a better showing and held leads of 1-0, 2-1 and 3-2 with Doug Hicks, Mikita and Bob Murray scoring for Chicago. Boston answered with goals by Don Marcotte, Greg Sheppard and Rick Middleton.

"Battleship" Kelly had a breakaway for Chicago 3:25 into the third period which Grahame stopped. That ended up being the last shot on goal the Blackhawks would have that night. Boston held Chicago without a shot on net for the last 18:25 of the contest.

O'Reilly ended the game just 1:50 into overtime on a shot from just outside the crease that went through a crowd in front of the net and eluded the screened Esposito. Boston had jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the series.

The Blackhawks hoped that a change in venue and a crowd of 13,187 screaming fans at Chicago Stadium for Game 3 would help them get back into the series.

It didn't work at first. Wensink scored a pair of first-period goals and the Bruins led 2-0 after 20 minutes. Mikita's tally in the second period cut the Boston lead in half, but O'Reilly scored 1:12 into the third to give the Bruins a 3-1 lead.

However, the Blackhawks wouldn't quit and manged to rally. Mulvey scored with 6:56 left in the third period and then with Esposito off for an extra attacker, Cliff Koroll tallied with just 27 seconds remaining in regulation time to tie the game 3-3 and force overtime.

Again, it was the Bruins emerging victorious. They outshot the Blackhawks 5-1 in the extra session and took a commanding 3-0 lead in the series on McNab's goal at 10:17 of overtime.

The Blackhawks hoped to avoid the sweep during Game 4 in Chicago, but McNab scored just 51 seconds into the game to quiet the crowd and set the tone. By the end of the first period, it was 4-0 Bruins as McNab scored again and O'Reilly and Park also tallied for Boston.

The game ended 5-2 and the Bruins had swept the series in four straight games.

The loss was the 12th in a row in the playoffs for the Blackhawks, a new NHL record. Chicago had been swept by the Islanders in two straight the previous year, the Canadiens in four games in 1976, and they lost the final two games of their series against Buffalo in 1975. Before losing to Buffalo, the 'Hawks had upset the Bruins in three games in the opening round of that season's playoffs.

The Bruins advanced to the Stanley Cup Final that year before losing to the Montreal Canadiens in six games. It was the third straight title for those great Montreal teams and the second straight year the Bruins lost to them in the final.

Now for the first time since 1978, the Blackhawks and Bruins meet again in the postseason. The stakes are higher this time as the winner takes home the Stanley Cup.