129304407 - Bill Smith

The series definitely will not be decided by who can make the goofiest face. (Bill Smith, Getty Images)

The Stanley Cup Final kicks off on Wednesday, because what better time to start the biggest playoff series of the year? At this point, you’ve been practically buried in series previews, many of which will try to boil the matchup down to a few key elements. This series will come down to goaltending, one will claim, while another will trumpet secondary scoring as what will determine the end result.

Really, it’s essentially impossible to predict. I can, however, tell you some things that won’t matter. So here are three things that, despite claims to the contrary, this series definitely won’t boil down to:

Who wants it more

Here is a cliché that needs to die a painful death, preferably scripted by George R.R. Martin.

It usually gets brought out at the conclusion of a game or series, sometimes even by the players themselves. Asked to explain how they won, they might respond, We just wanted it more, as if the player just finished reading The SecretThe power of positive thinking propelled the puck into the net, you see.

A player will win a battle along the boards and the colour commentator will explain that the player who won simply wanted the puck more than the other player. The player who lost the puck battle didn’t actually want the puck: he had a hankering for a bacon cheeseburger at the time. Nevermind the actual skills and techniques used to win the puck battle; since the colour commentator is a goaltender, he doesn’t actually know what those skills and techniques are, so it must have just been desire.

The truth is that all of the players in the Final want to win the Stanley Cup. In fact, they all want to win it pretty damn badly. The result of this playoff series isn’t going to be decided by who really, really, really wants to win, but by that desire meeting skill, strength, strategy, and a whole host of other things, along with a healthy dose of randomness.

What nationality the players are

At some point, Don Cherry will go on a rant about how many Canadians are on each team, perhaps pointing out how it’s no surprise that these two teams made it to the Cup Final, since there are 13 “good Canadian kids” on Chicago and 16 on Boston. Since the two teams are so close in overall Canadianness, he’ll likely turn to how many players are from Ontario, or Thunder Bay, or played in some midget league in Toronto to explain why one team is winning the series.

If Patrick Kane struggles, it’ll probably be because he’s a selfish American and not because Zdeno Chara — a captain who isn’t even Canadian, man, what is up with that — is shutting him down. If Boston starts losing, he’ll explain it’s because they’re missing Gregory Campbell, a good Canadian kid from London, Ontario, who sacrifices his body to block shots because that’s what it takes to win the Cup.

A great many people will sigh, shake their heads, and dismiss Cherry’s ramblings. A great many more will listen to him and parrot his words around the water cooler the next day. And still others in the media will write toned down versions of the same meaningless claptrap, talking about how one team or player is gritty, tough, and blue collar, while another team or player is soft, weak, or effeminate, but really mean “Canadian” or “European.”

Or someone will come right out and say that players from outside North America just don’t care about the Stanley Cup, at which point I fully expect Chara to jersey them at the next post-game presser.

It’s dumb. We all know it’s dumb. A player’s nationality isn’t going to make one whit of difference in this series.

An Original Six rivalry

Clearly, this Stanley Cup Final will be inherently more meaningful than other Stanley Cup Finals. This Final features two teams from the Original Six, that group of six teams that are not actually the original teams that formed the NHL, but have been around a long time anyway. Somehow, this series carries more weight, which will somehow affect the on-ice product, as if every shot, pass, and line change will go down in history.

Really, the fact that this is an Original Six matchup will have no bearing whatsoever on what happens on the ice. Heck, none of the players for the Bruins and Blackhawks were even born when the NHL consisted of just the Original Six franchises. Mike Babcock had just turned four when the league expanded in 1967. The only people who think the Original Six really matter are the fans old enough to remember those days and a few of the younger fans who have been indoctrinated into thinking they matter.

“I’m sure, you know, the rivalry could return instantly come Game 1,” said Joel Quenneville when asked about an Original Six match-up in the Stanley Cup Final. Only, what rivalry is he referring to? The Bruins and Blackhawks have never had a significant rivalry, even before the league expanded. Just because they’re both Original Six teams doesn’t mean they instantly have a historical rivalry we should care about.

The two teams have met in the post-season just six times and outside of the first round just twice. The Bruins won both handily, sweeping the Blackhawks in the semifinals in 1970 and winning 4-2 in the semifinals in 1974. The two teams have never met in a Stanley Cup Final and haven’t faced each other in the playoffs since 1978.

The fact that this is the first Original Six Stanley Cup Final since 1978′s meeting between the Bruins and Canadiens has been repeatedly shoved in our faces, but I’m not sure why we’re supposed to care. This isn’t a rematch of some legendary playoff series from 60 years ago. It’s not reigniting a long-dormant rivalry from some imagined era when the NHL was clean and pure.

It is, however, a meeting between two of the most exciting teams in the NHL. The current NHL. Can we just enjoy that, please?

Comments (12)

  1. This is so true. Both teams are comming back for a seconf shot at the cup within a few short years. So does chicago want it more because its benn longer or does Boston want it more because they just had it.

    Kane will have himself to blame for the Blackhawk problems because he is the last one into the defensive zone and the first one out, usually without the puck. His defensive style is to float into a corner for a stick check and fly the zone if there is a turnover. He will not battle for the puck or cause a turnover. That will make it easier for the Bruins forecheckers to retrieve the puck and gain control. So if the Krejci line is on against the Kane line with the bruins smaller quicker defensive pairs, Kane may never touch the puck.

    The Bruins will blame Seguin for playing likean American.

    The first college football game was between Rutgers and Princeton. No other two teams matter.

  2. Thank you. The ‘who wants it more’ excuse is used far too often. Coaches use it for motivation, commentators use it as an easy out. Does it only work for battles on the boards? What about shots? (i.e. McQuaid wanted it more than Vokoun) Offsides calls? Dump-ins? Line changes?

  3. I would pay serious money to see Chara jersey Kevin Paul Dupont.

  4. You kids and your hippie analysis… How can Corsi be taken seriously when it gives equal weight to a shot taken by a good ol’ Ontario boy or one taken by some Northern or *gasp* EASTERN European?!

    • Those Eastern Europeans just don’t want it enough…I mean, I think we can all agree that they’re enigmatic.

  5. “The fact that this is the first Original Six Stanley Cup Final since 1978′s meeting between the Bruins and Canadiens has been repeatedly shoved in our faces…”

    In actuality it’s the first “Original Six” Final since 1979, when the Habs faced the Rangers (beating them in 5 games to win their fourth consecutive Cup, and 8th in 12 years.)

    And, yes, I was alive to watch the “Original Six” play (in a meaningful way – I was 7 when I began following Hockey avidly, in 1965.)

    For me, the “Original Six” represent a tie-in to my childhood; what was happening in my world and in my thoughts, at the time. It was a different sport, with a different outlook and economics, and a different social-impact (than that of today’s NHL) – It’s “nostalgia-value” (if there can be such an index) is not dissimilar to that of car-enthusiasts who pine after the muscle cars of the mid-to-late ’60′s.

    Under the circumstances, one would have to speculate that “if you weren’t there, you needn’t know or care.”

  6. Awesome – a blog about things that don’t matter. Uuhhhhh… why not write a hockey blog about dancing for fucks sake?!

  7. Man, I read this article and thought: The author must just not want it enough to write a good article. What is he, Canadian? American? That would explain some of it. If only he had a good writing rivalry going with Bourne, then this article really would have shined.

  8. all you fans of non-original six teams are just jealous.

    • We’re going to form our own club, the “Expansion 24″ and we’re going to make sure and point it out every time one of the Expansion 24 plays another Expansion 24 team.

      Wow, it’s an Expansion 24 game between the Florida Panthers and the San Jose Sharks! That’s incredible!!!

  9. What about the Bobby Orr connection???!!?!?!eleven!!?

  10. So true on all 3 accounts!

    I wonder if Cherry could explain how the Blackhawks PK has been so good considering they so heavily on many “soft” Europeans (Hjalmarsson, Kruger, Frolik, Oduya, Hossa, Handzus, and Rozsival). Good ole Canadian boys Keith, Seabrook, and Toews must just want it so badly that they use Jedi mind tricks to will those “lazy, uninterested” Europeans into the shooting lanes and channel their inner Mike Keenan to give their teammates the “fire and passion” to kill off the penalties.

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