In this week’s issue, SI’s Brian Cazeneueve takes a look at the Boston Bruins’ unlikely road to the Stanley Cup Final after their near loss in the first round. After squandering a 3-1 series lead to the Maple Leafs, the Bruins found themselves trailing Toronto 4-1 with 14:31 left in the third period of game seven. But when Milan Lucic found an open Nathan Horton in front of the goal, the Bruins brought the score to 4-2 with 10:42 to play. A shift in momentum and confidence would inevitably allow the Bruins to become the first team in NHL history to rally from a three goal deficit in the third period to win a game seven.
“They’re a team that waits for your mistakes,” said the Pittsburgh Penguins Sidney Crosby after being swept in the Eastern Conference Finals by the surging Bruins. “There are times when they possess the puck. It doesn’t mean they’re carrying the play. They’re just patient. We were trying to get three goals back on one shift. You can’t do that against a team that thrives on your mistakes.” (PAGE 44)
Also in this week’s issue, Pierre McGuire breaks down the keys to a Stanley Cup victory for the Bruins and Blackhawks and Cazeneueve predicts the Bruins to take the cup in grueling seven game series.
All postseasons are great, but the traditions, desperation and facial hair of the NHL playoffs set it apart, says award winning writer Steve Rushin in this week’s SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, on newsstands now. The national cover story is accompanied by two SI covers that feature action shots from each conference final matchup, the Boston Bruins vs. Pittsburgh Penguins and the Chicago Blackhawks vs. Los Angeles Kings. Adding to the allure of this year’s playoffs, the final four is made up of the last four Stanley Cup champs.
“And so it goes, on a nightly basis for eight consecutive weeks, the speeding and the bleeding, making the Stanley Cup playoffs the most intense short-term spectacle in all of sports, a symphony for foghorn, swallowed whistle and dentist drill,” says Rushin. (PAGE 34)
Rushin explores the traditions that set the NHL postseason apart, such as playoff beards, sudden death overtime games (22 so far in this year’s playoffs), gruesome injuries, fans throwing seafood on the ice and players refusing to buy into the hype of their success and injuries.
In addition, the stakes are so high and the play is so fast and physical that coaches and players often refer to the pace as “urgent.” This leads to a lot of violent hits that still surprise and entertain many. “The violence inherent in the playoffs, obscured by the pace and grace of the game, still comes as a surprise,” says Rushin. (PAGE 34)
Rushin believes that the best traditions are ones that put the spotlight on others, like the postgame stick salute to fans and the handshake line between teams at the end of a series. “As the rest of the world abandons it in favor of the knuckle-bump or the finger-shoot—as Purell-pumping stations appear anywhere that human contact cannot quite be avoided—a few men have drawn a line against our increasing alienation. And that line is the playoff hockey handshake line,” says Rushin. (PAGE 36)
Led by Hart Trophy favorite Patrick Kane, young captain Jonathan Toews and a ragtag group of role players, the Chicago Blackhawks’ historic 21-0-3 start to the lockout shortened season captivated a city and reinvigorated the beleaguered NHL. This week’s Sports Illustrated, which features the Blackhawks on the cover, examines the resilient team that has helped bring hockey back. This is the third time the Blackhawks have appeared on an SI cover.
The ‘Hawks, who’s win streak finally came to an end last Friday, have sprinted out to the best NHL start since 2006-07 and done so in a compressed schedule that has featured numerous close wins. Along the way, Brian Cazeneuve writes on how they’ve reinvigorated the spirits of Chicago fans still upset over the departure of key players from the 2010 Stanley cup team (a sign at a recent game read: “#23 isn’t just about Michael anymore”) and shown the resilience of the NHL (arenas are filled to 96.7% of capacity since the season started, and 109.4% in Chicago.) Cazeneuve says: “And just like that—from completely locked out to totally locked in—Chicago has given the league a much needed boost.” (PAGE 39)
GM Stan Bowman headed the revitalization process prior to the season by adding gritty role players instead of marquee free agents. Bowman’s faith has allowed former castoff players like Daniel Carcillo (the man nicknamed “Car Bomb” who scored a game-winner with 49.3 seconds left to extend the streak against the Avalanche last week) and goaltenders Corey Crawford and Ray Emery to thrive.
“The Miami Heat can win 15, 16 games in a row, but how many teams can really win an NBA Title? Three? Four? I mean, the Kings won the Cup as an eight seed last year. In our league, if the 30th team beats the first team one night, it’s not a big deal. No game is a gimme,” said Kane (PAGE 36)
No player has stepped up more in the streak than Kane, who was previously known more for his off-the-ice antics than his amazing skills on it. Cazeneuve writes that Kane used the lockout to develop as a person, moving to an apartment with his mother in Biel, Switzerland, while he played in the Swiss League. “The biggest thing about this year is that I didn’t want to disappoint my parents…Hurting myself was one thing; hurting people close to me woke me up.” (PAGE 39)
Despite the surging streak, Toews and the Blackhawks know it’s not how you start, but how you’re playing once the Stanley Cup playoffs come around.
“The wins now are great, but we know they won’t mean anything if we can’t reset our sights on winning in June.” (PAGE 39)
Sports Illustrated’s NHL Preview predicts Penguins over Blackhawks in Stanley Cup Finals; Tim Thomas appears on Northeast regional coverPosted: October 4, 2011
Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas appears on a regional cover of this week’s Oct. 10, 2011, issue of Sports Illustrated — on newsstands tomorrow — that will be available in New England and Canada. It marks the Bruins’ 12th cover but their first since May 9, 1977 , when Gerry Cheevers and Brad Park appeared on it.
NHL PREVIEW: PENGUINS OVER BLACKHAWKS IN STANLEY CUP FINALS
The timetable of Sidney Crosby’s return is still up in the air, but Pittsburgh’s proven ability to win in a variety of ways — with either their offense or their defense — is a big reason why SI predicts the Penguins to defeat the Blackhawks in this year’s Stanley Cup finals. Predictions for the regular season are as follows (page 68).
|1. Pittsburgh Penguins*||9. Carolina Hurricanes||1. Chicago Blackhawks*||9. Columbus Blue Jackets|
|2. Philadelphia Flyers||10. New Jersey Devils||2. Vancouver Canucks*||10. Minnesota Wild|
|3. Washington Capitals*||11. Toronto Maple Leafs||3. San Jose Sharks*||11. Colorado Avalanche|
|4. Boston Bruins*||12. New York Islanders||4. Los Angeles Kings||12. Calgary Flames|
|5. Tampa Bay Lightning||13. Florida Panthers||5. Detroit Red Wings||13. Phoenix Coyotes|
|6. Montreal Canadiens||14. Ottawa Senators||6. Nashville Predators||14. Edmonton Oilers|
|7. Buffalo Sabres||15. Winnipeg Jets||7. St. Louis Blues||15. Dallas Stars|
|8. New York Rangers||8. Anaheim Ducks|
*Division winner; top eight teams in each conference make playoffs
On the Tablets: Fans can share their predictions for the 2011-12 NHL season on Twitter with the hashtag #SINHLPreview.