CHICAGO – In advancing to the top of the hockey mountain, adversity always plays a role in a team’s fate. It can be the difference between seeing the game from the bench or the recliner. It can make men into heroes or can banish them to the minors or even retirement. This spring, both finalists battled adversity early in the playoffs and the way each team handled it explains why how they have reached the final round of the NHL Playoffs.
For Boston, a first round match-up with Toronto, a hungry team which ended a long playoff drought, kicked off the playoffs. The Bruins hoped to survive the first round of this year’s playoffs, something they failed to do in 2012 when the defending champions were stunned by the Washington Capitals. Joel Ward knocked them out of the playoffs with an overtime goal in game seven. The Bruins came close to another early exit this year.
Down 4-1 in game seven, the Bruins mounted a remarkable comeback with just less than eleven minutes to play. Anyone who thought the Bruins were down and out was proven wrong with an epic decisive win against a young Toronto squad. The Bruins delivered a historic victory in a sequence which began with just 11 minutes left in regulation.
Nathan Horton netted a wrister from the left circle past Leafs’ goaltender James Reimer to make it 4-2. Milan Lucic made it 4-3 off a Zdeno Chara rebound which Reimer kicked out with just 82 seconds left to go. Patrice Bergeron, helped by Chara screen delivered the equalizer with 51 seconds remaining. Bergeron then delivered his second goal of the game, the game-winner, 6 minutes into overtime off a rebound with Reimer down and out.
Since their backs against the wall, Boston has gone 8-1 in victories over the New York Rangers and a sweep of the Eastern Conference’s top seed, the Pittsburgh Penguins. The adversity the Bruins overcome against Toronto has propelled them into the Final. Boston enters game one with tremendous momentum and spirit providing Chicago with a formidable opponent.
As for Chicago, the Minnesota Wild provided a small obstacle, but their second round against Detroit almost ended the season for the 2010 Stanley Cup champion. The Red Wings took a 3-1 series lead and it seemed the league’s top team in 2013 might go the way of the Vancouver Canucks, the league’s top team in 2011 and 2012.
In taking a one game at a time to keep the series competitive, Chicago returned home in game five to register a convincing 4-1 victory. In game six, Chicago trailed 2-1 before Michal Handzus tied the score a minute into period 3. Chicago added two more goals before allowing a late goal and held onto to win 4-3 tying the series.
Game seven provided a tight defensive match-up with Chicago holding a lead heading into the final period. Just 26 seconds in though, Detroit’s Henrik Zetterberg tied it before the game went to overtime. The series comeback and victory was completed when Brent Seabrook scored just three minutes into overtime vaulting Chicago into their three Final in three years.
Chicago and Boston find themselves equally rested and ready to go for game one of the 2013 Stanley Cup Final. It is the first time the two teams have met in the Stanley Cup Final and the first Original Six final series match-up since 1979. It should be a dandy. Comparisons on the coaches, goaltenders and special teams are forthcoming. The series begins at the United Center Wednesday night at 8:00 PM ET.
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