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Friday, June 7, 2013

Original Six Teams Eye Cup

Wild on Sports
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Original Six Teams Eye Cup
By Wild on Sports Analyst Jason Gillson

It was supposed to go down as two of the greatest Conference Finals match-ups of all time. No other time in NHL history had the previous four Stanley Cup winners all advanced to the Conference Finals (LA 2012, Boston 2011, Chicago 2010, Pittsburgh 2009). Instead of the drama, intrigue and all but certain supply of overtime thrillers and games sevens, here we are looking at potential knockout games in each series.

Boston comes into tonight's home game four match-up with a chance to send Sid the Kid & Co. packing. Fans across New England have their brooms ready. "His bags are packed. He has his plane ticket. Bring him to the airport. Send him home..."

Happy Gilmore references aside, the Bruins have turned what was thought to be a battle with an offensive juggernaut into your typical Boston grind-it-out, frustrate your opponent, type of low scoring affair. The dipsy-do Pittsburgh superstars have not been given an inch of ice without being met abruptly by a black and gold sweater and usually a shoulder, stick or hip for good measure. That is Bruins hockey. Blue collar, rough around the edges, find a way to win: will yourselves to victory.

There has been no better example of this than "energy line" grinder Gregory Campbell who went down to block a Evgeni Malkin slapshot during a 2nd period penalty kill only to have the shot fracture his fibula. In true Boston fashion, he got back right up hobbled around the ice for another 30 seconds shutting down the Penguins attack and blocked another shot before finally limping to the bench.

Now, here they are on the brink of sweeping the team everyone and their uncle thought would walk their way through the East to the Stanley Cup Finals.

Over in the West we are seeing a similar lopsided result. The Chicago Blackhawks are out to a 3-1 series lead thanks to Thursday night's 3-2 come from behind victory. The defending Stanley Cup Champion Kings, who had not lost a home playoff game since game four of last years finals, find themselves in a heck of a hole looking up at the #1 seed Blackhawks.

Surprisingly, the Blackhawks were able to get the job done in game four without star defensemen Duncan Keith who was suspended a game for his slash on Kings forward Jeff Carter. A slew of young defensemen and a goaltender in Corey Crawford, who has rediscovered his early season brilliance, have stymied the defending champs.

Like Pittsburgh, the Blackhawks have been the darlings of the West all season long; all but a lock to go to the finals. Unlike the afore mentioned Penguins however, the Blackhawks are living up to expectations, surviving the hard hitting physical play of their opponents and finding a way to put the pucks in the net. The Penguins would give half their roster to get the goaltending that Chicago has had -- its been all the difference.

So here we sit seven games into the Conference finals. Many assumed this would be the half way point. For two original six teams it marks an opportunity to take care of business and punch their tickets to a return to the Stanley Cup.

Boston vs. Chicago? I think the league would be just fine with that.

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