The Stanley Cup Finals begin tonight in Chicago..Scott picks the winner
JOE L. VERSUS THE BRUINS
Full disclosure. Any kid who grew up on Jerry Dunnack’s pond in Columbia was a hockey fan. I was no exception. I had my favorite players. Gordie Howe was already the legendary veteran and he was in a class by himself. My favorite young player of the era was Ralph Backstrom, when he was a rookie with the Montreal Canadiens. But my favorite team was the Boston Bruins. I probably leaped as high and as horizontally as Bobby Orr when he scored that goal against the St. Louis Blues. Of course, the New England Whalers had yet to play a game in the WHA and there weren’t even rumors yet about them becoming Hartford’s team. Obviously my allegiance shifted a bit in ensuing years. One of my favorite Whalers of all time, for his tenacious, steady play and his leadership capabilities, was defenseman Joel Quenneville, or, as former whalers coach Jack Evans called him, Jo-el, as if his name was Joseph Lewis Quenneville. Joel went on to marry a friend from my racketball playing days. So, I’ve got two horses in this race as the Stanley Cup final presents a matchup of two original six NHL teams for the first time since 1979. I’d be happy with either winner. I think I can be objective, and I think this is going to be a great series. You can start with Joe L. Quenneville and his counterpart, Bruins coach Claude Julien. The thought process will be continuous and relentless. Quenneville will love his chances when he has Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane on the ice at the same time but he’ll work hard to avoid the matchup with Bruins captain Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg that Julien will try to create. With Toews and Kane putting on the pressure the Blackhawks can certainly generate a lot of offense but the Bruins defense may have been the best in the league throughout the playoffs. They’re young and, with Chara showing the way, they may have already established themselves as the best Bruins defensive set since the days of Bobby Orr. The Bruins are not without some firepower of their own. Jaromir Jagr is 41 years old and hasn’t been in a Stanley Cup final in two decades, but there aren’t many who will outthink him in a game, let alone a series as big as this, and David Krejci may have the hottest hand in the post season, though Chicago’s Bryan Bickell has been no slouch, with eight goals in the playoffs after scoring only nine in the truncated regular season. He says the physical nature of playoff hockey better suits his style of play. What’s going to make this series really great is the guys standing between the pipes. When it comes to assessing the ablilities of Chicago goalie Corey Crawford and Boston goalie Tuuka Rask it would be hard to wedge a well greased dime between them. They may be the two best in the league, giving credence to the old adage about how far a hot goaltender can take a team. That’s why these two teams are on the doorstep. Back in his days in Providence it was evident that Rask was a blue chipper, they could barely slip one by him then and right now he’s red hot, allowing just two goals in the series sweep of the Penguins. That, to me, will be the difference. Bruins in six. With another pick I wouldn’t advise you to bet on in the sports world, I’m Scott Gray.