Let’s party like it’s 1979.
We’ve arrived, people. An Original Six Stanley Cup final (first since 1979) is on tap featuring the Boston Bruins and the Chicago Blackhawks. When the puck is dropped Wednesday at the United Center, it will be the first Western Conference vs. Eastern Conference matchup of the season. Both teams looked beat earlier in the playoffs, and yet both teams are on a roll coming into the finals.
It looks as if we have an epic finals on hands as long as both teams can deliver. The Blackhawks are slight favorites, but most pundits seem to be picking the Bruins. The Bruins have won nine of their last 10. The Blackhawks have won seven of their last eight. It’s a toss up, a bounce here or there may decide the entire series. With two teams that are almost too close to call, it seems necessary to break it down to even the most arbitrary detail.
So let’s do it. Let’s figure out who has the edge.
Goaltending – It would be easy to go Tuukka Rask here, but let’s look further. Corey Crawford has a slight edge in goals against average, and both netminders are above .935 in save percentage. Crawford still lets in the occasional soft goal, but seems to be able to put it behind him and re-focus. Rask has gotten better every round, and probably is the Conn Smythe winner if the payoffs ended today. He allowed two goals in a seven game series to the best offensive team in the NHL. That’s all you really need right there.
Edge: Rask, but Crawford isn’t too far behind.
Uniforms – You’ve got two of the best unis on the planet going at it. This could really go either way. Do you dig the simplicity of the “B” or are you an “every color in the rainbow” type of guy? Personally, I’d take the Bruins home unis and the Blackhawks away jersey. But that is a cop out. Always err on the side of simplicity.
Edge: Boston Bruins Home Jersey
Worst Accent – You’ve got two of the worst here. Boston’s “park the car in Harvard yard” awfulness, and “Da Bears” buffoonery of Chicago are tops on the most annoying accents on the planet. But the ironic goal of this category is to be the most annoying. It makes for the best movies and fan interviews. Chicago is the second city again when it comes to annoying.
Best TV Show set there – “Married with Children” was a fantastically underrated TV show set in Chicago, while everyone’s favorite heavy hitter “Cheers” was set in Boston. This is closer than you think, but not unlike the goaltender category, the numbers just don’t lie here: Woody, Sammy, Norm, Cliff, Carla, pick your female lead, and Frasier come out on top.
Offense – Boston’s offense is playing its best at the right time rolling into this series. If you look at the statistical leaders for the postseason it is littered with Bruins. Meanwhile the Blackhawks have been consistent even without any offensive contribution from their captain Jonathan Toews. You could argue that the Blackhawks have played better defensive teams and that have skewed the Hawks numbers down. I’ll buy that excuse.
Edge: Finally, the Hawks
Power Play - Both teams have seven goals on a million chances a piece. Neither team looks particularly good on the power play and almost seems to prefer to play five on five. Technically the Bruins have a better percentage, so I’ll go in that direction, although this is truly a category in which no one wins.
Edge: Boston, because death is not an option.
Penalty Kill – This is what the Blackhawks do best, killing off penalties at 95-percent clip. The Bruins are good, but this playoff performance being turned in by the Blackhawks is one for the ages. Marian Hossa, Duncan Keith, Toews, and Brent Seabrook are almost more apt to score than the power play they are facing. Almost.
Better Talk Show Host - We’ve got Team CoCo in one corner and Harpo Studios in the other. Considering I’m not a woman I’m going to side with Conan O’Brien. Although, Oprah is a billionaire. Money talks, but humor rocks.
Edge: Conan, Brookline’s Big Red.
Better Circus Freak - Zdeno Chara vs. Patrick Kane. This is close. It’s your classic world’s tallest man vs. the bearded lady argument. On one hand, you’ve got a European monster that packs the fastest shot in the NHL. On the other hand, you’ve got a home grown American child alcoholic that has some of the worst facial hair on the planet. Honestly we could go either way on this one, but Big Game Kane will get our nod, because frankly, we’d rather party with Kane than go on a bike ride with Zdeno.
POTUS – Obama vs. Kennedy. Both wildly popular with the youngsters and the hip crowd, these two presidents were/are celebrities along with being the most powerful man in the universe. Have to go with Kennedy here, though. Hindsight is always rosier, and if you live in the USA right now, it’s hard to side with Obama over Kennedy.
Edge: The, ah, formah president of these here United States, John F. Kennedy.
Better Defense - Both teams pride themselves on defense and most of their forwards are excellent defenders as well. Both are near the top of the leader board for goals allowed in the playoffs, with the Bruins having the slight edge. The Bruins allow more shots, but Rask has a knack for turning them away. The Bruins have faced better offensive teams in these playoffs as well, with only Rangers being offensively challenged. It’s a close call, but two goals to the Penguins?
Better Local Delicacy - Clam Chowder vs. Italian Beef. Come on now. Soup vs. a salty fatty sandwich? No contest.
Better Baller - Michael Jordan vs. Bill Russell. I could have thrown Bird in there, because he probably was the better player then Russell, but it’s hard to hear with 11 rings in your ear. Jordan is the best player of all time. Russell is the greatest winner of all time. Who you got?
Edge: Jordan, I can live with only six championships.
Better Baller - Tom Brady vs. Walter Payton. The Best vs. The Best. Both are arguably the best player at their positions of all time. One has more Super Bowl wins, MVPs, and plays the more important position. The other had a sweet jeri curl.
Edge: Tom Terrific.
Better Baller - Ted Williams vs. Frank Thomas. One was Ted Williams and the other was the right-handed Ted Williams. Two of the best hitters of all time. Both misunderstood for being selfish because they were both selfish egomaniacs. Frank Thomas’s nickname was better, but Teddy Ballgame was the better baller.
Edge: The Splendid Splinter
Better Odds - Vegas doesn’t mess around. Casinos are in the business of protecting their investment. Odds don’t necessarily reflect the percentages, but more reflect the casinos best guess of the money that will come in on the game/series. Chicago is minus 150 last I checked.
Edge: Money on the Hawks.
Better 2013 Comeback - The Bruins were down three goals in the first round Game 7 at home to the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Blackhawks were down 3-1 in their conference semi series against the Red Wings. Obviously both teams overcame great odds to defeat their personal nemeses. Both seemed equally difficult roads to travel, and the Blackhawks had to win three games in a row including one on the road, but what the Bruins did was pretty spectacular. Both teams seemed to rally around their adversity.
Better Stadium - I’ve never been to TD Gardens, but unless the Chicago Stadium or the Boston Garden come walking through that door, neither of the stadiums hold a candle to the days of yore.
Edge: The Past, so a tie, after all this is hockey.
So there you go, Boston is favored 13-6-1. All signs point to a Boston victory except the odds. And the soup. It should be a great final and I hope it goes deep. The final game of the season could be played on June 26. The latest a hockey season has ever gone. Preseason workouts will be right around the corner. Both the Bruins and the Blackhawks better win it this year, as this season’s toll will likely make winning next year an impossibility.
Hot Damn! With the Bruins win, I’m up $132 dollars on the postseason. My vow to wager $500 a round hasn’t been the absolute disaster I thought it would be.
My final round Wagers:
$250 @ +125 on the Bruins to win $312.50
$115 @ -115 on the under of 5 for points for Toews to win $100 (I think he’s hurt)
$115 @ -115 on the under of .930 Save Percentage for Rask to $100 (I think there will be goals)
$20 @ 15/1 on Patrick Sharp to win the Conn Smythe to win $300.
I’m fired up. Let’s do this. I’ll be in the building on Wednesday.