There are plenty of reasons for Blackhawks and Bruins fans to feel confident about the teams they root for entering tonight's game one of the 2013 Stanley Cup Final.
The Bruins swept-away the best offense in the NHL when they knocked-off the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference Finals. The Blackhawks were the best team in NHL this year, and finished the defending Champion L.A. Kings in just five games. If playoff hockey has ever taught anyone anything, it is that no one ever has any idea what is about to happen.
Experts are playing it safe and calling for a long series. How could this match-up be decided in less than six games? Both teams are solid from every angle of the puck, and both teams are playing near the peak of their abilities as they enter the Stanley Cup Final. With the firepower concealed in each lineup, this appears to be a case where an unstoppable force will be attempting to nudge an immovable object.
Each team will likely have to take the other's best shot, and find a way to land an effective response. The cliché prediction of "whichever team can impose its' will upon the other will take the series," appears to be right-on in this case. Many are picking the Boston Bruins in six or seven games, although the Blackhawks have received picks to win in the same number of games as well.
I like to look at the NHL playoffs, and especially the Stanley Cup Finals, as a season of AMC's Breaking Bad. When you start a season of Bad, you know the situation. Although you expect to be surprised, you feel like you have a general idea of where things are going. In truth, you are stupid, and wrong.
What makes both Breaking Bad and the NHL playoffs so special is their respective drama which unfolds in ways that viewers can never see coming. Again; you may expect to be surprised, but what ends up surprising you the most is your complete inability to have any idea what lies ahead, until it happens and blows you away.
Just using this season as an example, let us take a look at how the Blackhawks and Bruins found the road to the Stanley Cup Final:
Starting in the Western Conference, the San Jose Sharks sweep the Vancouver Canucks out of the playoffs in round one, while Detroit pulls an upset, winning the last two games of their round one series against the second-seeded Anaheim Ducks. Obviously, everyone in Chicago knows about the unpredictability of what took place in round two: the Blackhawks go down 3-1 against the seventh-seeded Red Wings, and find a way to come back and win the series in overtime of game seven.
Entering the Western Conference Finals, experts were praising the L.A. Kings' goaltender Jonathan Quick, and everyone expected a six or seven game series- sound familiar? Not only did the Blackhawks make Quick look like Roberto Luongo at a few points in the series, the Hawks also ended L.A.'s impressive home playoffs winning streak (which dated back to their Cup-winning run last year). On top of all that, the Kings tie an elimination game five with under ten seconds left, and then the Blackhawks still prevail and win the game in double overtime.
In the Eastern Conference, Boston squandered a 3-1 series lead to the Toronto Maple Leafs, and trailed by three goals with under ten minutes left in game seven. Of course, everyone saw it coming when the Bruins rallied to win that game, right? Since then, the team has been rolling, taking the New York Rangers down in five games, and shocking everyone who pays attention to the NHL when they swept the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference Finals, allowing only two goals in the process.
The Blackhawks and Bruins have both overcome amazing odds to make it this far. Both have had a road that has shocked experts and fans alike. This series is capable of going four games just as easily as it can go seven.
The NHL playoffs may not have Bryan Cranston, blue meth, or any infuriated drug lords, but the drama and the twists and turns are certainly equaled.
As Breaking Bad will enter its final season in August, fans surely expect to be forced to the edge of their seats, and shocked by what is in store. With the Stanley Cup Final now just ten hours away, hockey fans should be equally prepared for a thrilling and surprising conclusion to these outstanding 2013 playoffs.
To those who have not viewed an NHL playoff game, I offer the same advice I offer to people who have not seen Breaking Bad: watch it. If you understand it, you will fall in love, and become completely hooked.