What a difference a week makes. Last time I wrote, the Chicago Blackhawks were on the brink of elimination against the Detroit Red Wings and now they're just two wins away from ousting the defending champion Los Angeles Kings and returning to the Stanley Cup Final. The conference finals have tons of storylines, but with two games done out West and Game 2 coming Monday night in the East, this is what I've noticed so far.
THE BLACKHAWKS ARE BACK
Chicago didn't look quite the same over the first two rounds of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but after two wins to start the Western Conference Final against Los Angeles, the Blackhawks are starting to look like the team that dominated in the first half of the season. They've won the last two games against the best defensive team in the Western Conference and they did it with a remarkable amount of composure. Chicago outplayed L.A. badly in the first period and still ended up trailing when the Kings scored first. That could have easily escalated in frustration, but the Blackhawks continued doing what they do. They didn't panic. They attacked Jonathan Quick, they looked faster than L.A., they were much more in control and they just kept shooting and going to the net and they got rewarded.
The Pittsburgh Penguins and Boston Bruins have been two of the best teams in the NHL for the last few years, but we haven't seen them meet in the postseason since 1992. These are two great teams that don't really know each other, and it's going to make for some great hockey.
I love this matchup for the fact that they're completely different. The only thing they have in common is that they both wear black jerseys.
Boston is a team that's built on defense. The Bruins have the best defensive defenseman in the world in Zdeno Chara. He'll be playing against the best offensive forward in the world in Sidney Crosby. A top-notch penalty killing teams in Boston will be facing the best power play unit in the playoffs in Pittsburgh. One team's philosophy is built on puck control and defense, the other is the best quick-strike offense in the League. It's just a great matchup of opposites.
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For our team, as a group, we've never been this far before, and so it's just more lessons learned, and sometimes you have to go to the school of hard knocks to find out what works and what doesn't. We've got a young group. They've played some unreal hockey here to get us this far, and we showed if we're not going to play the proper way, a really, really good hockey team is going to beat you, and that's what they did. It's a lesson learned.