The Stanley Cup is being buffed and polished for its annual emergence. It will make its 2013 appearance in Boston or in Chicago in the next week or two. Helene Elliott of the Los Angeles Times joined Bill Littlefield to help us figure out which lucky city will host the gleaming goblet for the next year.
BL: The Stanley Cup Finals began with a three-overtime barnburner which Chicago won. It was the fifth longest game in NHL finals history. Pretty good start, huh?
HE: Yeah, I mean I think some of those guys were clean-shaven when that game began. And pity the poor writers. And especially this season when the Western Conference and Eastern Conference didn’t play each other. A couple of weeks ago in Chicago I was covering the [Los Angeles] Kings-Chicago series, and they plunked down a couple of Blackhawks at the interview table and said, “OK, ask your questions,” and there was no card identifying who was who. And all these guys look alike now with their beards.
BL: All right, the Bruins won the Stanley Cup two years ago. In that campaign they dropped Games 1 and 2 in Vancouver. And there are 17 members of the Bruins who were on that team two years ago, so they’re not panicking, right?
HE: Oh, gosh no. It’s way too early to panic. You don’t panic until the final buzzer goes on the final game. But there’s a lot of experience on that team. They had such an incredible playoff run to this point. There’s absolutely no reason to panic at all.
BL: Following a major roster change after their 2010 season, the Blackhawks have only eight returning players from their title run that year. Apparently Chicago kept the right eight guys.
HE: Yeah, that’s a good way to put it. The Blackhawks had a lot of salary cap problems after that [championship] season. They kept the main players, obviously … but a lot of the players who gave the team character had to go, and it took them this long to rebuild that depth and that character and [have] that kind of strength to get past challenges like they did in the Detroit series.
BL: This is the first Original Six matchup in the finals since the Canadiens and Rangers met in 1979. Is this a good thing or would the NHL have preferred to see Pittsburgh in the finals?
HE: I’m sure NBC would have preferred to see the Penguins – and the NHL as well. I mean, it seems everything revolves around Sidney Crosby and, to a degree, deservedly so. I mean, he’s an incredible player, but I think this is a terrific matchup from fans’ standpoint. Chicago’s style and speed against the Bruins’ tradition and … goaltending and [defenseman] Zdeno Chara. There’s just so many storylines there, and I think we’re seeing what a great matchup it is.
BL: OK, we refrained from asking for a prediction when the shortened season resumed back in January, but I have to ask now and you only have two teams from which to choose: who wins this thing?
HE: I picked the Blackhawks before it started, and I think I’ll stick with that. The Blackhawks – I like the speed. I like the depth that they have. You could say the same about the Bruins really, but I think the Bruins play a little bit more of a game that’s almost like a Western Conference team – a little bit more physicality. I think their goaltending may be better, too, but I just think the Blackhawks have the skill [that] will win out in the end.