The Stanley Cup Finals start tonight, and if there’s anything most people don’t know about, it’s hockey. The Chicago Blackhawks and Boston Bruins, two of the league’s most storied franchises, are squaring off for Lord Stanley’s Cup. Hopefully you haven’t waited until now to start watching the NHL Playoffs, one of the most underrated postseasons in sports, but if you have, no worries. Better late than never. Here are some talking points for you if the topic comes up around the office.
Patrick Kane Is Awesome
Perhaps the best American-born player in the NHL today, Patrick Kane is ridiculously skilled. He scored the game winning goal in the Western Conference Finals in double overtime of game five. He also scored the Cup clinching OT goal in the Hawks’ previous Stanley Cup win in 2010 against the Philadelphia Flyers.
The Original Six
The NHL used to only have six teams in it. Chicago, Boston, New York, Detroit, Montreal and Toronto are called the “Original Six.” This is the first meeting of Original Six teams in the Stanley Cup Finals in over 30 years, and the first meeting between the Hawks and Bruins ever in the Cup Final. Need to earn some points with some old folks? Drop that little nugget of knowledge on them.
Tuuka (Too-kuh) Rask from Boston and Corey Crawford from Chicago have been awesome throughout the playoffs, and are both relatively young. Want to sound like you know what you’re talking about? Just drop a little one-liner into the conversation about how important goaltending is in the playoffs. Everyone will nod in agreement and might even begin to respect your generic sports opinions. Rask has been waiting for his shot for years after sitting behind Tim Thomas for the last half-decade. Since taking over for Timmy, Rask has been nothing short of really good.
The Best Players
For Chicago, it all starts and ends with their defense, led by Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Nick Leddy and Niklas Hjalmarsson. Up front it’s all about the Hawks’ ridiculous depth in their forward lines with Kane, Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa, Patrick Sharp, Dave Bolland, Bryan Bickell and Andrew Shaw. In Boston’s case, their defense is just as good, starting with Zdeno Chara. The forwards for Boston may not be quite as good as Chicago’s, but the Bruins have some damn good offensive contributors in Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci and Tyler Seguin. Boston’s role players are also probably the best in the league with Chris Kelly, Shawn Thornton and Rich Peverley.
Joel Quenneville rocks the best lip sweater in sports, and if he wins the cup, he might just be the best coach the NHL has seen since Scotty Bowman. The same could go for Boston’s Claude Julien. There’s an argument to be made for Detroit’s Mike Babcock as well. Either way, both of these coaches are great at getting good matchups on the ice, and are really good at managing the penalty kill and power play.
If there’s one reason to watch the Stanley Cup Finals, it’s for the respective performances of The Star Spangled Banner at Chicago’s United Center and Boston’s TD Bank Garden. In Chi-town, it’s the world famous Jim Cornelison belting the US anthem while the UC goes nuts, every fan in attendance screaming their heads off while Cornelison goes note for note with the arena organ. In Bean Town, crooner Rene Rancourt comes out in his black and gold bedazzled tux to serenade the Bruins faithful as they sing along. God bless America. Suck it, Canada.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of American NHL dominance over Canada. No Canadian team has won the Cup since the Montreal Canadiens won it back in 1993 against Wayne Gretzky and the Los Angeles Kings. Got any neighbors from up north working in your office? Be sure to taunt them with that for the next two weeks or the rest of the summer.