Hawks vs. Bruins a curiosity wrapped in a mystery
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John Starksemail@example.com ¬ The Chicago Blackhawks celebrate Saturday winning the NHL Western Conference Championship at the United Center in Chicago.
Come on, drop the puck already!
Seriously, let's get this going. Let's see who the Bruins are. Let's see whether the Blackhawks are who their fans think they are.
To me, anyway, the Stanley Cup Finals beginning tonight represent the most unpredictable championship round involving a Chicago team in a long time.
If people tell you they know whether the Hawks or Bruins will win, respond by telling them you know who will win the discus in the 2032 Summer Olympics. You might have a better chance at being correct.
Chicago teams in the four major sports leagues have been in 10 previous championship rounds the past three decades: The 1985 and 2006 Bears, 1991-92-93-96-97-98 Bulls, 2005 White Sox and 2010 Hawks.
Think about No. 11 now: On paper and probably on the ice, Hawks-Bruins is more unpredictable than any of them.
Nobody, especially the Patriots, was going to beat the '85 Bears. Perhaps no other NFL team in history would have, as their combined 91-10 margin in three postseason games indicated.
The Bulls' half-dozen NBA titles essentially were Michael Jordan coronations. The Sox' hard work was completed in the American League before they swept the Astros in the World Series. As nervous as local fans can be over how wacky the NHL playoffs can be, the Hawks were going to beat the Flyers three years ago. As optimistic as those same fans can be, the Bears were going to lose to the Colts six years ago.
In many ways they all were done deals before the real deals even began.
But this one — these Stanley Cup Finals between the Hawks and Bruins — this one is a curiosity wrapped in a mystery.
Yes, the Hawks have home-ice advantage and should be favored after having the NHL's best record during the regular season. Still, even experts who legitimately know something about this league — most of them Canadians, of course — are having difficulty determining the distance between Chicago and Boston.
Adding to the uncertainty is that the Hawks reside in the Western Conference, were segregated all season from the East and haven't met the Bruins in 20 months.
So tell me, how many Chicago sports fans can name more than a few Bruins? Hard-core hockey enthusiasts might rattle off all of their line combinations and defense duos, but the masses likely would have to cram all night for a quiz on the subject.
Which Marchand is this one? When did Jagr get to Boston? Are there eight u's or nine k's in the goalie Rask's first name? Is that Chara guy 7-feet, 8-feet or 10-feet tall? Does Orr still fly horizontally in front of the net? Overall, who's who and what's what with the Bruins?
Maybe in Boston they're asking similar questions about the Blackhawks.
"I think," Bruins' winger Milan Lucic said Tuesday, "what will make this series fun is both teams don't know what to expect."
Here's one way to look at it: Forget about the names on the backs of the sweaters and focus on the legendary logos on the front.
All anyone here needs to know is that the Bruins swept the Penguins in the Eastern finals. All anyone in Boston needs to know is the Hawks started the regular season 21-0-3 and finished with the Presidents' Trophy.
Going into the Stanley Cup Finals, those facts make the series as intriguing as any championship round Chicago has been involved in memory decades long.
Predicting a winner is a precarious proposition, so better to just sit back, strap in and enjoy watching the drama unfold.
So, please, drop the puck already!
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