For the second time in three seasons, the Boston Bruins will have the opportunity to hoist high that greatest of trophies, Lord Stanley’s Cup.
In their way stands their Original Six rival and more than six hundred times their foe, the Chicago Blackhawks. By chance, these clubs represent one of two matchups of Original Six clubs that has as yet never met in the Cup Finals (the other being the Rangers and Hawks).
Yet, despite the novelty of this Finals matchup – these old foes will come together for the seventh time in their history, a history Boston has had the better of, both in the regular season (261-235-82) and playoffs (5-1 series record).
One could argue that this series will crown the first ‘dynasty’ of the post-lockout era. For, while several franchises have found consistent success in the past decade of competition, no team in the inter-lockout period earned a second Cup during the stretch. The victor of this series will be that first. Along with several consecutive years of contention, the winning club deserves the label as the best team of the post-lost-season bonanza at least – and a mention as the League’s dynasty-in-waiting.
But why these teams – why not the other recent champions?
The Penguins and Wings, pretenders to the throne, were both dispatched unceremoniously by their respective conference champions. Each has a Cup and a finalist nod since 2005, but neither earned a spot in the championship round since 2009. “What have you done for me lately-” is a valid question when considering potential dynasties. Their impressive regular season marks notwithstanding, they’ve only earned cursory mentions in the ‘best of’ post-lockout argument.
Even less deserving are the one-off champs that immediately followed the lost season. Anaheim’s dispensation of Ottawa marked their only foray into the Cup Finals in the past decade. Even less can be said of Carolina, whose recent record is hardly the stuff of legend.
The Kings, the West’s runners-up and defending champions, have been relative newcomers to the “Elite” stage. Their nigh-on immaculate run to the 2012 Cup deserves mention though they’ve only earned home ice advantage in one postseason series in the past decade-plus.
Still, while one team’s victory will bring the post-lockout landscape into some perspective, the NHL doesn’t crown its dynasties so readily. The League’s website lists eight teams universally determined to be “Benchmark Teams” – each of which raised at least three Cups in short order.
All but three of those came (at least in part) before the League expanded beyond six teams. The rest came before the League added a final nine teams in the 1990s. Since then, four teams have secured multiple Stanley Cups: The Avs (2), the Pens (3), the Red Wings (4) and the Devils (3) – but only Pittsburgh and Detroit earned titles (both back-to-back) in shorter order than the 2013 winner will have.
Both teams return significant pieces from their Cup-winning cores. Eight (but a very notable eight) skaters from the Blackhawks’ 2010 championship squad. The Bruins, on the other hand, retain seventeen players from their victory over Vancouver two years ago.
To many, it goes without saying that it’s immeasurably more difficult to maintain success in hockey’s modern age thanks to the decreased odds that come with additional teams and the parity of the salary cap era – thereby significantly diminishing the likelihood of a traditional ‘dynasty’ emerging. While the NHL might not consider whichever of the Bruins and Blackhawks emerges the first multi-Cup winner of the decade a dynasty in the strictest sense, the achievement is well worth noting.
Whatever the definition, the victor in this series will earn accolades beyond the hefting of a massive silver cup – they will have definitively earned the moniker of the “Best Team since the Lost Season,” and stated their case as the NHL’s “Dynasty in-Waiting”.
Follow Bob Mand on Twitter at @HockeyMand