The Blackhawks and Bruins barley got here. Both teams were in danger of being eliminated earlier than expected.
Boston was about to blow a 3-1 series lead against division foe Toronto in the first round. The Leafs led Game 7 4-1 with under 11 minutes to go and 4-2 with under 90 seconds remaining. The Bruins shocked the hockey world with two quick goals and won in overtime. Since then they are 8-1 in the playoffs with their only loss coming in overtime.
Chicago trailed bitter rivals Detroit 3-1 in the second round. The Blackhawks lost three straight for the first time all season and couldn’t solve Red Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard. The Blackhawks bounced back in Game 5 and entered the third period of Game 6 trailing by a goal. An inspired three-goal burst in the final period forced a Game 7 where the Blackhawks won in overtime. The Hawks went on to win the Western Conference in five.
Toronto and Detroit players and their fans now much be thinking “what if”. Both teams could’ve and should’ve beaten the teams that are in the Stanley Cup final.
What the Bruins and Blackhawks proved was teams need to face adversity. The Blackhawks faced little to no adversity in the regular season. They recorded at least a point in the first half of their games in the shortened season. When their streak was snapped, they coasted into the playoffs and didn’t have to play a game with a lot of meaning. This can put a team in a vulnerable position especially when they had to play a team like Detroit.
The postseason technically began on the last day of April, but the playoffs for a team like the Red Wings started a month earlier. They were fighting for the last few spots in the playoffs with teams like St. Louis, Minnesota, Columbus, Dallas and Edmonton. Mike Babcock’s team had to bring a playoff like intensity ever night and they secured the No. 7 seed. The Red Wings kept the momentum up for the their first round series win against Anaheim and the first four games of the Blackhawks series.
A similar situation happened in 2012 for the Kings and 2010 with the Flyers. Both teams faced adversity like the Red Wings because most of their games in the final month were must-win. Once they got in they were in playoff mode before their opponents and kept it up. The Kings won the cup as an eight seed and the Flyers fell in six games in the Cup finals.
The Bruins went through the season with little adversity. They struggled at times and failed to win their division, but they comfortably made the playoffs.
It’s very hard for a hockey team to make the Stanley Cup finals without overcoming some kind of hardship. While it looked bleak at times, the Blackhawks and Bruins are better off after overcoming what they went through.