CHICAGO — It’s been 20 months since Jonathan Toews and the Chicago Blackhawks took on Zdeno Chara and the Boston Bruins.
Two of the NHL’s marquee franchises sure picked a perfect time to renew acquaintances.
The Stanley Cup series kicks off tonight when the Blackhawks host the Bruins in the first finals matchup of Original Six franchises since Montreal beat the New York Rangers in five games way back in 1979.
The mighty Blackhawks, winners of seven of the last eight games, feature a deep roster that really found its identity when pushed to the limit by the Detroit Red Wings in the second round. Then there are the playoff-tested Bruins, who rolled over favored Pittsburgh during an impressive sweep that gave them a chance for a second NHL title in three seasons.
It’s a gift wrapped in a bow for a league still trying to recover from a bitter lockout that wiped out 510 games and pushed the start of the season back to Jan. 19.
“It’s a special couple places, the tradition of the Bruins and the Hawks is special,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. “I’m sure, you know, the rivalry could return instantly come Game 1. I think it’s good for the league. It’s good for hockey. Two great hockey markets. We’re very excited to be a part of it.”
Chicago advanced with a 4-3 double-overtime victory over Los Angeles on Saturday night, using a hat trick from Patrick Kane to eliminate the defending champion Kings in five games in the Western Conference finals. Back in the title series for the first time since 2010, the Blackhawks are in search of another Stanley Cup to pair with their six-game victory over the Philadelphia Flyers three years ago.
“These opportunities don’t come back all the time,” Chicago defenseman Duncan Keith said. “I think we want to make the best of it.”