Ranking the Chicago Blackhawks' Most Exciting Potential Stanley Cup Opponents
After a memorable battle last year for Lord Stanley’s hardware against the Boston Bruins, the Blackhawks are poised for yet another run.
With a possible third league championship on the horizon, fans would love to see another grueling matchup with one of the Eastern Conference’s top teams.
Though the Blackhawks’ Western Conference postseason schedule could get exhausting, let’s take a look at five possible Stanley Cup Final showdowns that fans would love to see based on historical and recent rivalries.
5. Boston Bruins
Who wouldn’t love to see a Stanley Cup Final rematch?
The Boston Bruins, who currently sit atop both the league standings and the Eastern Conference standings, gave the Blackhawks one heck of run for their money last postseason.
Three of the six games ended in overtime while four were decided by a single goal.
In Game 1, Coach Joel Quenneville’s squad narrowly squeaked out a victory after the Hawks’ Andrew Shaw scored a grimy goal 12 minutes into the third overtime.
Game 4 saw a scoring frenzy from both clubs, a game in which Chicago would again prevail in overtime to knot the series at 2-2.
Fans will never forget the moment when Brian Bickell and former Blackhawk Dave Bolland netted two goals 17 seconds apart from each other to clinch the franchise’s fifth Stanley Cup.
Losing such a closely contested series like the one we saw last June will certainly be on the minds of the Bruins, who will look to return to their third Stanley Cup Final in four years.
A 2014 sequel could reboot an old rivalry in the NHL.
4. Montreal Canadiens
The Montreal Canadiens have a history that precedes the days of the Original Six. The city’s storied franchise has 24 Stanley Cup championships under its belt, five of which came against the Blackhawks.
Now that Chicago is the only Original Six team remaining in the Western Conference, the Habs rarely see their old foe. Since the NHL began its expansion in 1967, the two clubs have only met twice in the postseason.
The Canadiens made improvements to their offense after acquiring forward Thomas Vanek at the trade deadline. Vanek adds size and depth to a roster backed by world-class goaltender Carey Price.
The Habs' biggest threat to reaching the Cup Final this year will be their bitter rivals, the Boston Bruins. The Hawks will have their hands full as well in the West.
Even though it is unlikely, the thought of these two duking it out for the Cup would be pretty cool.
3. Philadelphia Flyers
In all honesty, the Blackhawks won their first Stanley Cup in 49 years in one of the most anticlimactic ways possible. After a hard-fought, physical battle against the Philadelphia Flyers, the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup after Patrick Kane shot the puck through the pads of the Flyers goaltender Michael Leighton in a way that only he could see.
That season, the Flyers had one of the most spectacular Cinderella seasons ever. After narrowly making it into the postseason, they found themselves down 3-0 against the Bruins. Shockingly, they rallied, came back and won four straight.
The Blackhawks, who were ranked second overall in the West that year, were expected to cruise though the Stanley Cup Final. However, the Flyers resisted and were only one goal away from forcing a Game 7.
That never happened.
Players have come and gone since that day, but the cores of both teams still remain. The 2014 Flyers still have a bitter taste in their mouths, and they want nothing more than to return and put a rightful end to that haunting memory.
2. Pittsburgh Penguins
Over the last few years, many thought it was an inevitability that these two hockey-crazed cities would play for the Cup. However, the two teams have only met twice (both times this year) since December of 2011.
This wouldn’t be the first time these cities have fought for the championship. Older fans will remember back in 1992 when the Penguins swept the Blackhawks in a not-so-easy four-game sweep.
Now, both sides display top-tier talent in all areas of the ice.
Offensively, the Blackhawks boast goal scorers like Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa along with a great two-way captain in Jonathan Toews.
Arguably the best player in the world, Sidney Crosby fronts a big, quick and talented group of forwards like Evgeni Malkin and James Neal.
The thing that makes this potential Stanley Cup Final meeting so great is that both sides field some of the greatest defenses in the league. The duos of Duncan Keith/Brent Seabrook and Brooks Orpik/Rob Scuderi have the talent to dismantle any offensive threats.
The fact that both teams are so mysterious to one another makes for an unpredictable series, which would be a treat for every hockey fan.
1. Detroit Red Wings
Who didn’t see this one coming?
The greatest rivalry in hockey now has the chance to be showcased on the biggest stage in the game.
In the early days of the sport, when there were only six teams in the league, the Blackhawks played the Red Wings twice for the Stanley Cup (1933-34 and 1960-61), with Chicago coming out the victors both times.
Since the league’s inception, the Blackhawks have met the Red Wings 16 times in the postseason. The team from the Windy City has won nine of those meetings.
Fans don’t have to look that far back to remember one of the greatest playoff series in the teams' histories.
Last year, Brent Seabrook was able to score the game-winning goal in overtime of Game 7 to propel the Blackhawks to the Western Conference Final after the team was down 3-1 earlier in the series.
With the league’s new realignment structure, the two squads now have the opportunity to bring their storied rivalry to new heights. Even if it may not happen this year, it is inevitable that these two will find themselves playing in what is surely going to be one of the greatest playoff series in all of sports.