Chicago can win the series tonight; Boston hopes to force a Game 7
Both teams have been in this position before.
In 2010, the Blackhawks were headed into Philadelphia for Game 6, up 3-2 in the series against the Flyers. In 2011, it was Boston at home, down 2-3 versus the Presidents' Trophy-winning Canucks. Both teams won their respective games.
These aren't the same Blackhawks. These aren't the same Bruins.
Both teams have a number of core players who were on their Cup-winning teams before. Those players know what has to be done and have to lead the way for the rest. Nobody can doubt that any player on other team doesn't have the will and desire to do whatever needs to be done to close out the series.
For both teams, the goalies have changed. Both Corey Crawford and Tuukka Rask have had to answer their critics, to prove they could carry their teams deep into a Cup run. They've both done it. Crawford has been faced with more doubt and criticism along the way from those outside of the team, but as of Monday morning, he's winning the battle that matters most: leading the series in wins.
Perhaps the most interesting thing about this series is it has been so incredibly .... polite, so far, although they're getting rougher as they roll along. These teams rarely see each other during the regular season as it is, perhaps once or twice a year; with the lockout, they've been feeling each other out as they go. There isn't the level of hate that we've seen in some of the past few years. Even fan-on-fan chirping has been pretty mild overall. Both teams won a Cup in the past three seasons, so there is no huge chip on either team's shoulders. It is simply a battle of the best, so well-matched so far that the two teams played more than a game's worth of extra overtime in the first five games.
The Blackhawks finally figured out the Bruins defense style and more importantly, goalie Tuukka Rask. The Bruins are trying to physically dominate Chicago into submission.
Game Six won't even start with the Stanley Cup in the building. Based on historical context, the Keeper of the Cup will have it safely secured in a nearby hotel, where he will watch the first period of the game before making his way to the arena. Should the Bruins be in good position to win the game decisively, the Cup may not even enter the building. But if it looks good for the Blackhawks to win, the Cup will be brought into the building and readied for presentation.
If the first five games have been any indication, this game won't be decided until the very last minute of play.
Both teams are banged up at this point. Both teams might be may or may not be missing their best players - Jonathan Toews and Patrice Bergeron, respectively - on Monday night.
Can Rask outbattle Crawford to force a Game 7, sending the series back to Chicago? Or will the Blackhawks be taking Lord Stanley back home with them on their charter plane to the Windy City?
We'll find out tonight.
* * *
Game 6 will be broadcast Monday, June 24, at 8 p.m. EDT / 7 p.m. CDT on NBC, CBC, RDS.