The Boston Bruins were eliminated from the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs last week at the hand of their most hated rival, the Montreal Canadiens. Since then, you have imbibed (responsibly, hopefully). You have sulked. You have probably watched a boatload of porn. Now, it’s time to return to the sport you love, even if the Bruins are absent.
In the Western Conference Final, the reigning champion Chicago Blackhawks face a red-hot Los Angeles Kings team poised to make a run just as impressive and improbable as the one that brought the franchise its first-ever Stanley Cup in 2012. This series marks only the fifth repeat meeting in the Conference Finals since 1979 (Oilers-Red Wings in 1987 and 1988, Bruins-Penguins in 1991 and 1992, Avalanche-Red Wings in 1996 and 1997, and Avalanche-Stars in 1999 and 2000). Only twice have the Blackhawks and Kings met in the playoffs — 1974 and 2013 — and both times Chicago emerged victorious after five games.
Last year’s matchup was positively electrifying right down to the finish, when Patrick Kane completed his hat trick in double overtime to close-out the series.
This might be a bit much to ask of you, but forget for a moment that last year’s Stanley Cup Final ever happened. All prejudice and hurt still lingering from those two goals in 17 seconds notwithstanding, the Blackhawks are a fun team to watch. The case could easily be made that Jonathan Toews, not Sidney Crosby, is not only the best leader in the game, but the best player as well. Patrick Kane is an American hero who would just as soon embarrass a seasoned defenseman as crush a couple Natty Lights. Coach Joel Quenneville was fined for grabbing his crotch at an official in the opening round of this year’s postseason: a level of frustration often approached by Claude Julien, but never quite reached.
Besides, the Blackhawks eliminated the Minnesota Wild, and thus, Matt Cooke. That ought to earn some points with the B’s faithful, no? Personally, I will root on Chicago for the remainder of the postseason, solely for the tender moment I shared with senior advisor to hockey operations Scotty Bowman last June.
Meanwhile, the Montreal Canadiens announced Monday that following a collision in their 7-2 loss to the New York Rangers in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final, star goaltender Carey Price would be unavailable for the rest of the series. Under no circumstances will we make any attempt to cheer on the Habs, so consider the Rangers.
Yes, it is against your nature as a Boston fan to root for a New York team, but it is the lesser of two evils. At the heart of the Rangers’ run is the story of Marty St. Louis, whose mother died of a heart attack during the second round. In a Mother’s Day game against the Pittsburgh Penguins, St. Louis scored the first goal of the contest, dampening every hockey fan’s eyes from Moose Jaw to Hartford. Afterward, every last member of the Rangers attended the funeral.
This appears to be Henrik Lundqvist’s best shot at the Stanley Cup, which has so far eluded the 32-year-old Swede. With Montreal facing dire uncertainty between the pipes, the Rangers may power past the Habs for their first Stanley Cup appearance since 1994, when the Blueshirts last hoisted hockey’s greatest prize.
So long as the Kings do not advance, the Stanley Cup Final will feature two Original Six teams for the second consecutive year. And with four huge markets still in the playoffs, the NHL — and the sport of hockey — can only benefit.