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Bruins, Blackhawks already instant classic

Posted by Obnoxious Boston Fan  June 10, 2013 05:40 AM

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Thought you might enjoy this eye candy, as if there was any reason to add motivation for Game 1 on Wednesday night.

The Boston Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks had an epic all-out brawl on Dec. 2, 1970. Chicago won the game 4-3 over the then defending Stanley Cup champions.

Who won the brawl?

That probably depends on your perspective and whether you prefer black and red or black and gold in your hockey team.

Among the Boston combatants in his You Tube classic - originally take from this post at hockeyfghts.com - include Don Awery, Derek Sanderson, Ted Green and even Bobby Orr. Check out Green and Dan Maloney slugging it out at the 1:09 mark.

Brawls like this are one way for hockey players to earn street, er, ice, cred with teammates, opponents and fans. But you probably won't see anything close to this when Boston and Chicago meet in the first Original Six Stanley Cup Final since the Carter Administration.

Classic hockey fights on You Tube are a great way to kill time at work while waiting for Game 1 Wednesday night.

But there's no legitimate "hatred" between these two teams, their fan bases or even these cities. There will ample attempts to manufacture what we saw with Pittsburgh from many who are not playing in this series. But the Blackhawks do not have someone on their roster who all but ended Marc Savard's career without punishment or regret. Nor do they have a player who shunned the Bruins for Chicago, after a deal was in place to bring him to Boston. Just healthy respect and a large portion of optimism. That's as it should be. The two best teams in the NHL are playing for the Stanley Cup. Plain and simple.

Both cities also share a healthy disdain for New York, from different perspectives. Chicago is forever locked into ''Second City" status while Boston rightfully refers to itself as the "Hub." Take that "Big Apple." If the enemy of my enemy is my friend, then Boston and Chicago ought to be thunder buddies for life.

Remember how the lockout was going to kill the NHL once and for all? Guess that didn't happen. A shortened regular-season has done wonders for the sport this year and given the NHL and NBC perhaps the best Finals matchup it could have hoped for in terms history, hockey and legit hysteria.

Boston and Chicago are two wonderful cities. Both have long-suffering fan bases, pride themselves on loving their blue-collar superstars and boast their own versions of NBA dynasties.

They also have the two of the three NFL franchises to ever to finish 18-1. (The 1984 49ers were the third.)

Many of the same haters, trolls and cynics who could wait for the Bruins to lose Game 7 against Toronto, thought the Bruins went belly-up because Tuukka fell on his Rassk in Game 4 against the Rangers or kept bringing up 2010 after the Bruins steamrolled the Penguins in Game 3 will find inner-linings of clouds amid the silver chalice that is at stake starting Wednesday night.

No doubt Tommy from Tweksbury will wait on hold for 87 minutes early this week to blather about how the "Bruins haven't done a damn thing yet." But he''ll be loud enough to make himself think he sounds convincing.

Just for the record, here's one of the posts that streamed across the @realOBF Twitter feed following Boston's defeat of the Penguins after Game 3:

And this:

And this, complete with a Twitter plug for boston.com colleague Adam Kaufman:

If the Bruins do win the Stanley Cup, they play to send a championship DVD to Crosby so he can see what he missed in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Enough "we told you so." After all, this isn't sports talk radio.

Throughout the end of the regular season and even during the playoffs, the Bruins have faced not only healthy skepticism and criticism, but some irrational and unfounded doubt.

It was hard, but not impossible, to consider that they could turn it on in the playoffs. That thought was trounced by the sports thought police as being foolish. Yet, common sense tells us that athletes who have the talent and emotional make up to perform at the highest level also have the ability to turn it on or off whenever they feel like it. Common sense has taken a beating when it comes to trying to be optimistic about the Bruins and their chances. Fools, you are, to think this goalie is good enough, or Patrice Bergeron can carry this team when they need a goal, or to note that Jaomir Jagr can have a gargantuan impact on a team while he hasn't scored a goal in seven weeks.

You were not hockey-smart enough to realize that what you were seeing with your own eyes on the ice did not matter. The experts told us this wasn't so. Just check the audio from the NBC Sports telecast from the Bruins-Penguins series.

Much of the Bruins mini-collapse at the end of the ever-useless regular season came as a result of the jumbled schedule thanks to bad weather and what happened on Marathon Monday. At one stretch they played six games in nine days. This is the NHL, not the American League. Six games in nine days can screw up any team, even one that could end up hosting a Stanley Cup Duck Boat parade.

The Bruins were designated by fate and scheduling as the team that first helped Boston emerge from the literal and emotional wreckage of the Boston Marathon bombing. It was at TD Garden that the masses first gathered following that attack and where they sang the National Anthem in unison after Rene Rancourt delivered the first 13 words.

The Bruins actually lost that game to the Sabres, but the team won over fans new and old as they first carried the "Boston Strong" banner at home. It's hard to say what impact or effect all of that has had on the players. Many have gone both publicly and in private to visit the injured and offered their time and treasure to raise money for the One Fund and other worthy charitable endeavors.

For know-nothing fans and rabble-rousers like myself, it's a connection that exists in our minds and therefore becomes of a part of all this, whether it's based in actual cold-hard-facts or just our emotional imagination. Our dead ancestors did little to help Kevin Millar draw a walk off Marino Rivera, Dave Roberts steal second base, Curt Schilling beat the Yankees on one leg or the Red Sox swat the Cardinals in four straight. But thousands of New Englanders headed for the cemetery of their choice in the days and weeks after Boston won its first World Series in 86 years.

I'm the first to admit I counted the Bruins out early in the third period against Toronto. One needed the heart of a six-year-old to think Boston had a shot when it was losing 4-1. But the important thing is that the Bruins never counted themselves out of that game, or any other since the start of the playoffs.

And it remains astonishing, if not somewhat disheartening, that the goaltender who stopped 98.5 percent of the shots he faced against Pittsburgh - there's your next promo, Toucher and Rich or Felger and Mazz - somehow is still facing those who won't credit him for "proving himself" until he wins a Stanley Cup.

It's not Rask's fault that he's trying to follow up locally on perhaps one of the greatest Stanley Cup finals performances in goal-tending history. Thanks again, Tim Thomas. Hope that bunker is fully stocked with provisions now that the government knows you who you have been calling since you left Boston.

Rask has arrived, and he deserves at least as much money as the Red Sox gave to Dice-K, J.D. Drew, Carl Crawford and Julio Lugo.

Rask is fast becoming the Joe Flacco of the NHL. Flacco was trashed for being unremarkable all the way to a Super Bowl championship and a monster $120 million payday (although it's not all guaranteed.) He was not the sole reason the Ravens won the Super Bowl, but it was hard to deny his place among the NFL's most-clutch QBs after his nearly flawless postseason performance.

Rask is on the same track. His numbers against the Penguins would make Carmine and the stat boys at Fenway Park monstrously green with envy. Rask allowed only two goals in more than 13 periods of hockey and stopped 134 of 136 shots and the highest-scoring team in the league. It was a team that had won a Stanley Cup just four years ago, with much the same core lineup.

Even with all that, it was Gregory Campbell who made the most-memorable stop of that series, breaking his leg in order to protect his goalie from a missile off the stick of Evgeni Malkin. Like Flacco, Rask's brilliance was obscured by the greatness of his defense. Zdeno Chara was the NHL's version of Ray Lewis (without the criminal record) and Ed Reed against the Penguins. Boston even had a little bit of Bernard Pollard in Brad Marchand, at least when it came time for retaliation. (See his tripping penalty against Chris Kunitz in Game 3.)

Big Ball of Hate.

"He pulls a knife, you pull a gun, he sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue."

Just thinking about Chara's 42-minute performance in Boston's Game 3 double-OT Pittsburgh-crushing victory makes me sleepy. He smothered Sidney "Still Waiting for My First Point in the Eastern Conference Finals" Crosby and the rest of his heartless, gutless and, in the end, punch-less teammates.

Rask doesn't have his "Super Bowl" ring yet, but he's removed any reason for the doubters, cynics and trolls to question his worth or ability to succeed in the playoffs. He might not capture the spotlight like Tim Thomas did two years ago. But it's also not crazy to start calling him "Conn Smythe," either, as our Twitter pal @MSavvy91 noted last week.

Rask and his Bruins teammates have turned the art of being "misunderestimated' into hockey brilliance. They completely took the Penguins out of any game they tried. Closing the Eastern Conference Finals with a 1-0 victory on a goal by Adam McQuaid is all the factual basis anyone would need to demonstrate the "team first" mindset of these Bruins.

The legitimacy of the current Bruins team is now undeniable, from the front office, to the easily-maligned coach (this spot referenced "Chumley" the cartoon walrus), to the players. The fluke was 2012, not 2011. The collapse of 2010 can finally be relegated to the dustbin of NHL history, along with the Quebec Nordiques, California Golden Seals or Cleveland Barons (yes, they all merged or morphed into new teams, but don't tell that to the fans they left behind).

The Bruins are in the Stanley Cup Finals. They've done it the right way and taken all of us for a helluva ride along the way. The "nattering nabobs of negativity" may find some fulfillment if the Bruins lose to the favored Blackhawks.

But they'll be in the minority. The Bruins, as they say in the corporate world, have performed above standard and reached all their expected benchmarks.

Respect, street cred, long-term stability, legitimacy in the postseason, being a damn good hockey team.

They're all checked off the list.

All that's left is a championship.

A classic Stanley Cup Finals.

Let the real fun begin.

Don't forget to visit our Obnoxious Boston Fan blog. As always, let us know what you think. Post your thoughts here, on our Obnoxious Boston Fan Facebook page, on Twitter @realOBF or e-mail me at obnoxiousbostonfan@hotmail.com.

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Obnoxious Boston Fan offers a fun, unique and biting perspective on the Red Sox, Celtics, Bruins, Patriots and whatever else people are talking about in the world of sports. We More »
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