You hear plenty of hockey people throw the term “Original Six” around with reverence, and it will certainly get plenty of play over the next two weeks as the Bruins and Blackhawks prepare to drop the puck Wednesday night at the United Center for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals.
Despite the long and storied NHL history of both franchises, the Bruins and Blackhawks have never met in the finals.
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville previewed the marquee matchup after beating the Kings in the Western Conference Finals, hitting on all the highlights that have the hockey world licking its chops for the series.
“It's a special couple places, the tradition of the Bruins and the Hawks is special," he said. "I'm sure, you know, the rivalry could return instantly come Game 1. I think it's good for the league. It's good for hockey. [It’s] two great hockey markets. We're very excited to be a part of it. I think everybody was speculating at the beginning of the year, how [the Cup Final matchup] was going to play out.
“I'm sure we got to see Boston quite a bit. I'm sure they watched every bit of our games. They’re on an amazing roll. They were on the ropes in one game, we were on the ropes for three. They got a lot of momentum where they're at right now. [It] should set up for a great final.”
He's right, of course. With two veteran, talented teams with past Cup experience, plenty of household name players and major local television markets should make it a successful series for a league coming off of a lockout.
Here are five storylines to look out for over the course of the series:
*Jonathan Toews vs. Patrice Bergeron – People that enjoyed the Bergeron vs. Sidney Crosby matchup in the conference finals will get even more of a treat in the Stanley Cup Finals. The two players are mirror images of each other as great face-off men, more than capable offensive players, and the two best defensive centers in the NHL. They also happen to be going head-to-head for the Selke Trophy. Watching these two players will be a clinic in how to play the game of hockey the correct way, though Toews has struggled a bit offensively (one goal in 17 games) through the playoffs.
*Former EHC Biel Switzerland roommates Patrick Kane and Tyler Seguin will face each other after playing together during the NHL lockout . . . and enjoying very different seasons since then. Kane has rebounded from criticism with a Hart Trophy-worthy season and ended the Kings season in Game 5 with a hat trick. Seguin has just one goal in 16 games during the Stanley Cup playoffs and has been dropped to the third line amid a disappointing postseason.
*Andrew Shaw isn’t a big known name like Matt Cooke or Raffi Torres, but he plays the same “rat” style of game and will become well-known to Bruins fans by the end of the Cup Finals. He has four goals and 7 points to go along with 26 penalty minutes in 17 playoff games thus far.
*Bryan Bickell has been the story of the playoffs as a big, strong power forward-type that’s playing his best hockey right before he hits unrestricted free agency. He leads the Blackhawks with eight goals scored during the playoffs. Bickell is the reason that Chicago managed to survive their second-round struggles against the Detroit Red Wings, and he was highly effective against the LA Kings as well. He’ll be a challenge for the B’s defense at 6-foot-4 and 233 pounds.
*The history of the matchup and the first Original Six Stanley Cup Final match since 1979 will bring back plenty of old time hockey stories: expect some visuals of Bobby Orr in a Blackhawks uniform at the very end of his career, and plenty of talk about the Bill Wirtz years when the Blackhawks owner purposefully blacked the games out on television believing it was hurting his game day attendance. The dark age for Chicago wasn’t over until ownership passed to his son Rocky Wirtz. There should also be some good battles between Bruins alum Mike Milbury and Blackhawks alum Jeremy Roenick in the NBC studios during the series.