Blackhawks vs. Bruins: Is a Place in the NHL Pantheon on the Line for Chicago?
History will determine how the 2013 Stanley Cup champion will be remembered.
Critics may say that a 48-game regular season diminishes the accomplishments of the team that ends up hoisting the Stanley Cup, claiming it was not enough of a test to legitimize the championship.
That claim could be easily debunked, because the level of competition was even more intense than usual since each point in the standings proved so valuable.
If Chicago ends up winning the championship, it will have a second title in four years. That may not seem overly impressive, but no team that has won the Stanley Cup since 2003 has added a second Cup to their resume.
The Boston Bruins are in a similar boat. If they win the title, they would win their second championship in three years.
But the Bruins had an ordinary run in the regular season. They finished fourth in the Eastern Conference and stumbled quite a bit in the final month of the season.
That's not to take away anything from their accomplishments in the postseason, but the Bruins don't have the full-season resume to compare with the Blackhawks.
Chicago finished the season with a 36-7-5 record and they earned 77 points on the year. That point total earned them the President's Trophy this season as the team with the best regular-season record. Their winning percentage was an extraordinary .802.
No President's Trophy winner has also taken home the Stanley Cup since the 2008 Detroit Red Wings. The 2002 Red Wings also accomplished that feat.
In the history of the NHL, 39 teams have won the Stanley Cup after securing the best record in the regular season. However, the only teams to have a better winning percentage than the Blackhawks achieved this year are the 1977 and '78 Montreal Canadiens.
Those Canadiens teams were led by Guy Lafleur, Larry Robinson, Jacques Lemaire, Serge Savard, Yvan Cournoyer, Steve Shutt and Guy Lapointe. They had Ken Dryden in goal and were coached by Scotty Bowman.
The Canadiens reeled off four straight championships between 1976 and '79, and the '77 and '78 were considered the two best.
Based on their overall record and their Stanley Cup dominance, Bowman's Canadiens were arguably the best team of all time.
The '77 Habs went 60-8-12 during the regular season. They had a record 132 points and a gaudy .825 win percentage. A year later, they were not quite as strong, but their record was still pretty remarkable. They went 59-10-11 for 129 points and an .806 win percentage.
Those Canadiens teams were juggernauts in the postseason. They went 12-2 in beating the St. Louis Blues, New York Islanders and Boston Bruins in '77, while the '78 team went 12-3 in the playoffs, beating the Detroit Red Wings, Toronto Maple Leafs and Bruins again.
The Blackhawks are playing to join those Montreal teams as the only teams in league history to record the best regular-season record in the league, have a win percentage of better than .800 and also win the Stanley Cup.
That would put the Blackhawks in elite company. However, they are not stopping there. They set a record by starting the regular season off at 21-0-3. That was the best start by any team in the history of the NHL.
Whether they win the Stanley Cup or not, the 2013 Blackhawks will have their name in the record books because of that tremendous start. Adding the Stanley Cup to that accomplishment would make that early record that much sweeter for them.
In addition to the measurable accomplishments, the Blackhawks employ a dynamic style of play under head coach Joel Quenneville. They rely on speed and they play an attacking game. They don't try to clog the neutral zone to prevent their opponent from going up and down the ice by clutching and grabbing. They simply dare opponents to beat them with speed and skill.
It has not happened very often this year.
They had a blip in the conference semifinal round when they fell behind the Detroit Red Wings 3-1 before finding their legs and winning the last three games of the series. After they breathed a huge sigh of relief, they got back to business and eliminated the defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings in five games. That allowed them to advance to the Stanley Cup Final.
Now, they face a powerful Boston Bruins team that is coming off a four-game sweep of the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Bruins have size, speed, strength and skill—all the elements needed to make a run at the championship.
Boston would be celebrated as a worthy champion if it were to come out on top. But the Blackhawks are playing for something far greater.
They are hoping to earn a spot with the greatest teams in the history of the NHL.
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