No, I have never played a grueling 82-game hockey season or a lockout-shortened 48-game season, but the Bruins and Blackhawks have.
The contract negotiations are a thing of the past, and we are on the fringe of the Stanley Cup, something no one would have predicted eight months ago. It is nice to see the Boston Bruins in the Stanley Cup with "original six" foe, Chicago.
During the lockout, sports talk show hosts babbled about whether winning Lord Stanley's Cup during a lockout-shortened season had the same meaning as winning it during a full season. I recall some in the sports media calling it an "asterisk" accomplishment, but in my eyes it is still a Stanley Cup.
The 82-game season is far too long and oftentimes teams are eliminated a month before the season ends. In the 48-game sprint to the finish, teams are forced to deal with a lumped schedule causing each game to carry more weight.
Players completed a short six-day training camp, and there is no question both the Blackhawks and the Bruins are banged up at this point in the season.
This postseason has brought drama back to the playoffs once again. Boston snuck past Toronto after rallying back from three goals down to win it in overtime and finish the series in seven.
The Bruins' (28-14-6) series win over Toronto set the tone for the rest of the playoffs, that this is a gritty group, not afraid to battle to the bitter end. Boston then advanced to the Eastern Conference Semifinals, where they dispatched the Rangers in five games to set up the heavyweight battle with the Penguins.
Boston defied all odds defeating the blubbery birds at home 1-0 in game one, which some could argue deflated Pittsburgh's momentum. If that wasn't enough, Boston stormed back into the Igloo (Pitt's home ice) and shellacked the Penguins 6-1.
Boston never trailed in the series, and made the star-studded Penguins look like a group of amateurs. For the first time this season, the Bruins prevented NHL poster-boy, Sydney Crosby, from tallying a single point.
The funniest part of the series was when the Bruins won the Eastern Conference Finals and gathered around for the infamous "Look don't touch" photo with the Prince of Wales Trophy. The Prince of Wales Trophy has a long storied history of being passed around and bringing bad luck to its winner, if touched.
The NHL could not ask for a better match-up in a lockout-shortened season. Chicago and Boston have two of the most storied fan bases in the league, and possess some of the games' top-talent. Boston features a hard-nosed, grind it out style of hockey that syncs well with the high-powered offense of the Blackhawks.
Chicago is three years removed from its last cup, the Bruins two. Boston's 2011 Stanley Cup remains mostly intact with the subtraction of key players Mark Recchi and Tim Thomas.
The Blackhawks (36-7-5) are the best team in the NHL with 76 points in 48 games, which is absolutely bonkers. Boston is clearly the underdog in the series, but isn't that the way you want it to be?
The underdog is obviously not supposed to win, but if they do, it makes it that much sweeter. At the start of the season, goalie Tuukka Rask's future in Boston was up in the air, but after the year he has had, it is pretty much set in stone that president Peter Chiarelli will take care of him.
The match-up not many are previewing is the vocal cord battle between Boston's national anthem singer Rene Rancourt and Chicago legend Jim Cornelison.
I recall when the Bruins last won the cup, sitting in the break room of the Clinton Middle School reading the Boston Herald, as an underpaid substitute history teacher. Rancourt was pictured on the front cover of the tabloid in his infamous gold sequenced vest and snappy bowtie. Rancourt brought down the house in the team's game with Buffalo, following the marathon tragedy. Rancourt dropped the microphone and allowed the 18,000 plus Bruins fans to go acapella with the anthem; why can't they sing it like that every game?
Rancourt is known for his booming voice that sends chills up and down your spine and prepares the Bruins for battle. Cornelison does the same for the Blackhawks, and I was shocked by his ability to hold notes.
Am I the only one who thinks the pair should belt out a duet of the national anthem, if the Stanley Cup goes to a game seven?