The Chicago Blackhawks have joined the Boston Bruins in the Stanley Cup finals, featuring Original Six NHL franchises for the first time since 1979.
Chicago eliminated the defending champion Los Angeles Kings with a 4-3, double-overtime victory Saturday night in Game 5 of the Western Conference finals, bouncing back to win after giving up the lead in the final seconds of regulation.
“We know there’s going to be more tough moments that we’ll have to battle through,” Chicago captain Jonathan Toews said.
Boston finished off a sweep of the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday night in the Eastern Conference finals.
The league hasn’t had two of its oldest franchises playing for the championship since Montreal beat the New York Rangers in five games 34 years ago, winning its fourth straight title. Those Canadiens were led by coach Scotty Bowman, now a senior adviser for the Blackhawks, whose general manager is his son, Stan.
The Blackhawks will have home-ice advantage in their first post-season matchup with the Bruins since 1978, when Boston won an opening-round series.
Game 1 is Wednesday night in Chicago.
The Blackhawks and Bruins didn’t meet during this lockout-shortened season because there weren’t any interconference games in the 48-game schedule.
They haven’t played each other since Oct. 15, 2011, when the Bruins won 3-2 in Chicago. Tyler Seguin scored the only goal of a shootout, and goalie Tim Thomas denied Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Patrick Sharp in the tiebreaker.
Boston hoisted the Cup in 2011 for the first time since 1972. The Blackhawks won it in 2010 for the first time 1961.
Both teams have many of the same skaters they had on their recent championship teams, and both were on the brink of being bounced earlier in the post-season.
Boston coach Claude Julien had 16 players from the championship team three years ago in the series finale against Pittsburgh.
Chicago rallied from a 3-1 deficit in its second-round series against Detroit, which entered the third period of Game 6 at home with the lead before the Blackhawks scored a flurry of goals to win. They lost only one game to Los Angeles in the conference finals.
The Bruins led Toronto 3-1 in the opening round before being pushed to a Game 7 in which they trailed by three goals with less than 11 minutes left in the third period.
Since that stunning comeback, Boston beat the New York Rangers in five games and swept the previously potent Penguins by a combined score of 12-2.
“You can tell in the way we’ve been playing since that game that we were able to create some momentum, and it carried on into the New York series, and it carried on to this series,” Boston’s Milan Lucic said. “I think once we won that game, we definitely started to believe in what we could accomplish, and here we are.”
Boston is still playing in large part because Tuukka Rask is giving up fewer than two goals a game, playing in front of a physical defence.
“He’s in a zone that you hope he can hold on to,” Julien said. “Without that kind of goaltending, you don’t get a chance at winning a Cup.”
Likewise, Chicago couldn’t have advanced without Corey Crawford.
“He deserves all the credit in the world and then some,” Toews said. “He’s the most important player on our team right now.”
Follow Larry Lage on Twitter at www.Twitter.com/larrylage