Sunday, May 16, 2010

Which Drought Will End?


While this years Stanley Cup Finals may lack the star power of last years with the Detroit Red Wings and Pittsburgh Penguins not returning for a third year in a row, there is another intriguing potential match up.

During the 1971 NHL Finals, CBS had a classic match up featuring the Chicago Black Hawks and Montreal Canadiens. The announcing team was Hall of Fame Broadcaster Dan Kelly and Jim Gordon.

How many fans remember who played on both of these teams? For the Black Hawks, there was Bobby Hull, Tony Esposito and Pat Stapleton. Montreal had legends Ken Dryden, Jean Beliveau, Jacques Lemaire, Henri Richard and John Ferguson.

Montreal won this series 4-3 as Beliveau and Ferguson retired as Stanley Cup Champions in a league that had only 14 teams.

How things have changed. The NHL has more than doubled in size.

This is a year that one of the leagues Final Four will break a long championship drought. Is it possible that we could have a rematch of the 1971 Stanley Cup Finals? Could we have two Original Six teams in the Finals?

The answer to both questions is absolutely!

The Chicago Black Hawks have the longest drought 0f the Final Four. They won their last championship in 1961.

The Philadelphia Flyers last championship occurred in 1975 when the Broad Street Bullies led by Bobby Clarke, Dave "The Hammer" Schultz, Rick MacLeish, Bernie Parent, Gary Dornhoefer, Bob Kelly and Bill Barber piled up penalty minutes and two championships.

It's hard to imagine that it's been since 1993 that the Montreal Canadiens won their last championship as they won their 24th Stanley Cup by defeating the Wayne Gretzky led Los Angeles Kings. The Coach of the Canadiens was former Red Wings bench boss Jacques Demers. Hall of Famer Patrick Roy was the goaltender for Montreal.

During this season, the San Jose Sharks set an NHL record for most losses in a season with 71. The Sharks had the fewest ties ever with two and had the most home losses with 32. San Jose had a 17-game losing streak and finished the year with an 11-71-2 record with 24 points.

Speaking of the Sharks, they are the top seed in this tournament and are looking for their first Stanley Cup Championship. If they make it to the finals, they have home ice advantage.

When was the last time you saw a playoff tournament the featured the top two teams meeting in one Conference Finals as we are with the Sharks and Black Hawks facing off in the West.

For that matter, when was the last time you saw the bottom two teams in a conference battling for their right to be amongst the Final Two in the East.

It will be interesting to see if the illustrious tradition of the Montreal Canadiens will be enough to give NBC big ratings. If the Flyers make it to the Finals, NBC should be fine with that major television market.

But I have to hand it to both of these teams for advancing as far as they did. The Montreal Canadiens won a pair of seven game series by ousting the Washington Capitals and Alexander Ovechkin along with the defending champions Pittsburgh Penguins led by Sidney Crosby.

The Flyers earned there way by eliminating the New Jersey Devils and future Hall of Fame Goaltender Martin Brodeur. Then Philadelphia did the unthinkable by overcoming a 3-0 series deficit and a 3-0 margin in the seventh game to rekindle the Boston Massacre of the Bruins faithful.

With the Flyers and Canadiens being the seventh and eighth seeds in their conferences, they're playing on house money. Nobody expects them to do anything. The underdog role could suit either organization just fine when one of these squads gets to the finals.

The Flyers fans have to be thrilled at what they accomplished and certainly validated Yogi Berra's saying that "It's not over until it's over." The Boston Bruins know it now and will not forget this blown opportunity to snap their drought which dates back to the 1971-72 season when they defeated the New York Rangers.

If Chicago wins the Stanley Cup, NBC announcer Ed Olczyk will receive a championship ring because he is the Black Hawks regular color commentator. I still have a feeling he'll show professionalism and be as neutral as possible working with his seasoned pro partner Mike Emrick.

But if the Black Hawks do win the Stanley Cup, I can just imagine how much more pressure will be on the Chicago Cubs to win a title in a drought that has lasted over 100 years.

Meanwhile, the NHL could receive a boost if the Sharks win the Stanley Cup by bringing a championship to the San Francisco Bay area. There could be no better publicity then to grow the game than in Northern California. If the Sharks beat Montreal, it would only enhance their championship by defeating this legendary Original Six Team.

With three major USA Media Markets, and the most storied franchise in NHL history, it will be interesting to see how this all plays out.

I'd personally like to see the Black Hawks and Canadiens face off again in the Stanley Cup Finals with the Windy City emerging as champions. But if Montreal does win the Stanley Cup, they will have earned it by beating the best competition out there. For an eighth seed to win a title, this would be quite an accomplishment.

More importantly, in this calender year, if Montreal wins it's 25 Stanley Cup, they will only trail the New York Yankees by two titles since the Yankees defeated the Philadelphia Phillies in the 2009 to win their 27 championship. These sleeping giants will have awoken.

Lets drop the puck, let the intrigue begin as we find out how high or low the ratings are plus which drought will end?

Scott Morganroth can be reached at and his blog can be read at

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