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 Secret. The 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?