The Boston Bruins were up 2-1 with less than two minutes away from forcing a game seven in last year’s Stanley Cup Final.
What would happen in those final two minutes still haunts them.
The Chicago Blackhawks scored two goals in 22 seconds to steal the Stanley Cup away.
Call that motivation heading into this season.
So far, the Bruins have responded like an extremely hungry team; in fact, a starving team. The Bruins dominated during the regular season, finishing with 117 points and winning the President’s Cup.
They ran away with their division, winning the Atlantic by 16 points, and finished first in the Eastern Conference by 12 points.
They also know what it takes to win sports’ most prized trophy, having won it in 2011. This team is obviously stacked, containing two 30-goal scorers in Jerome Iginla and Patrice Bergeron, and three 20-goal scorers in Milan Lucic, Brad Marchand, and Reilly Smith. Tuukka Rask has also been a brick wall between the pipes, winning 36 games, and holding a 2.04 GAA and a .930 save percentage.
In order to win in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, you need stellar goal tending to carry your team.
The Bruins certainly have it with the way Rask has performed this year.
All of this is a credit to head coach Claude Julien.
Their road to the Cup Final certainly works in their favor as well.
In their first round matchup with the Detroit Red Wings, they are dealing with a depleted team.
Their toughest matchup would actually come in the next round either against a Lightning team that is still potent offensively, but Boston has the better goaltender, or an inconsistent Montreal Canadiens team.
In the conference final, the Bruins have a pretty good chance of facing a metropolitan division opponent, in the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Philadelphia Flyers, or the New York Rangers.
Each team could be emotionally worn out from a most likely highly intense series from the round before.
Once in the Cup Final, their won’t be any stopping the Bruins.
They just won’t lose a second time so close to the cup, especially with last season’s ending.
Experience will also help the Bruins along with way.
There’s a ton of veteran presence on this team, most of which were a part of the 2011 Stanley Cup championship.
They obviously know what it takes to win.
Usually winning the President’s Cup serves as a curse in the playoffs.
The Bruins will put an end to that this season. All streaks must be broken at some point, right?
This Bruins team is under different circumstances.
Most teams that won the President’s trophy in recent years didn’t suffer what the Bruins did last season, let alone make it as far as they did.
The Bruins are clearly on a mission.
That mission is to finish; something they fell painfully short in doing last season.
All of this will lead the Boston Bruins to win their second Stanley Cup in four years.
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The 2013-14 Anaheim Ducks have made this season one of the best seasons in franchise history.
With the depth this team has, they could very well end thei 20th season in the league with a Stanley Cup parade.
To start off, the Ducks have two of the top five scorers in the NHL.
Their captain Ryan Getzlaf finished second in the scoring race with 87 points.
Sharp shooter Corey Perry finished fifth in points with 82, which included his league second-best 43 goals.
To complement their top line scoring, the Ducks also have strength in their bottom-six.
Thirty nine-year-old Saku Koivu added 29 points to the team and 43-year-old team legend Teemu Selanne racked up 27 points.
The age of these two might be high for the NHL, but they certainly give everything they have out on the ice.
All that offensive power combines for the league-leading goals per game average. The Ducks will certainly be a hard for any team to stop.
On the blue line, the Ducks have a solid mix of young guns and seasoned vets.
Cam Fowler managed 36 points despite missing 12 games.
Fowler’s game will aid Anaheim in their break out and will greatly improve on the possession problems they ran into when he was missing.
Another advantage for the Ducks in the first round will be newly-acquired Stephane Robidas. Robidas, who spent most of his career with Dallas, will be able to provide insider information in Anaheim’s first round match up with the Stars.
The goaltending for the Ducks might not be the strongest in the league, but has still been solid all season.
All three goalies have over a .900 save percentage.
Jonas Hiller, who looks to be the starter, had 29 wins and five shutouts during the regular season.
If he is to falter, the team will easily be able to rely on back-up Frederik Andersen or rookie John Gibson.
As with any playoff system, it’s all about the match ups.
If Anaheim makes it past the first round, they will have to face the winner of the L.A. Kings and San Jose Sharks series.
Either one of those teams would be a tough challenge.
Anaheim’s depth will prove to be its advantage and the key to their Stanley Cup victory.
The advantage the Ducks have is with their 116 points; they have secured the top seed, and home-ice advantage, throughout all the Western Conference playoffs.
The only team in the league they would not have home-ice advantage against would be the Boston Bruins.
With the new style of match ups, these playoffs are guaranteed to be entertaining.
Most of the first round and the entire second round will be divisional matches.
This can only intensify the rivalries between all the teams.
No one’s trip to the Finals will be easy, but Anaheim has the most complete team to get there.
If sports fans think March is madness, they haven’t seen the insanity and the intensity that is the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
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