By Dave Wischnowsky –
(CBS) They share a stadium, a color scheme and a collective history that’s produced eight championships over the past 23 years, with a strong chance for a ninth next month.
But whose Chicago title run has been the best, the Blackhawks’, the Bulls’ or, well, the Bulls’?
That topic of discussion is one that I’ve seen pop up on social media over the past few weeks as the Blackhawks have again been scorching their way through the Stanley Cup playoffs, which continues with Chicago leading the L.A. Kings, 1-0, heading into Game 2 on Wednesday night at the United Center.
There’s no debate that the Blackhawks’ current five-year window – which already has included Stanley Cup championships in 2010 and 2013 – is the city’s best sports run since the Bulls’ “three-peats” of 1991-’93 and 1996-’98. But this week, I became curious about exactly how each of those championship runs stack up against each other. So, in an attempt to provide some context for the discussion, I crunched a few numbers and found some interesting items.
Interestingly, in both the 1991-’93 and 1996-’98 runs, the Bulls went an identical 45-13 in the playoffs for a .776 winning percentage as they won a trio of titles each time. None of those six championship teams lost a single game in the first round of the playoffs, going a perfect 9-0 in those series during each of the three-peats.
In the other playoff series, the 1991-’93 bunch went 12-4 in second rounds, 12-4 in third rounds and 12-5 in championship rounds. Only once during those three postseasons were the Bulls pushed to a seventh game – that coming against the New York Knicks of Patrick Ewing, John Starks and Xavier McDaniel in the second round in 1992.
The 1996-’98 Bulls, meanwhile, went 12-3 in second rounds, 12-4 in third rounds and 12-6 in championship rounds. That group also was only once pushed to a decisive seventh game, with it coming against the Indiana Pacers of Reggie Miller, Rik Smits and Mark Jackson in the 1998 Eastern Conference Finals.
For argument’s sake in regards to the Blackhawks, let’s pretend for a moment that these playoffs will result in a third Stanley Cup. If you include their current 2014 postseason record along with their totals from 2010 and 2013 when they won titles, the team has a 41-16 playoff record in those three seasons (we’ll address 2011 and 2012 below).
That current winning percentage of .719 trails the Bulls’ two .776 title runs and still would even if the Blackhawks go 7-0 the remainder of this postseason to sweep their way to a Stanley Cup. That remarkable feat, and the resulting record of 48-16, would leave the Blackhawks’ winning percentage at .750.
However, it should be noted, the Blackhawks also have had the added challenge of needing to win four games to advance through the first round of the playoffs, as opposed to the three victories that the Bulls needed in the 1990s. And in those NHL first rounds, the Hawks have gone 12-5 during the three postseasons, while in second rounds they’ve gone 12-7.
One game into this season’s third round, the Blackhawks are an impressive 9-1 in conference championship series in 2010, 2013 and 2014. And in the Stanley Cup Finals of 2010 and 2013, the Blackhawks were a combined 8-4 overall. Like both of the Bulls’ three-peats, the Blackhawks also have been pushed to a decisive seventh game just once in 2010-2013-2014, that coming against the Red Wings in the second round in last year.
Now, even with another Stanley Cup this season – their third in five years – the Blackhawks wouldn’t have pulled off a true three-peat, a la Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Phil Jackson. So, with a lower combined winning percentage and not even a championship repeat as of today, it’s tough to argue in any way that the Blackhawks’ recent title stretch is better than either of the Bulls’ ones from the past. However, a run of three crowns in such short succession by the Blackhawks would still make for an interesting comparison against the Bulls’ legendary glory days.
And with the likes of Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Joel Quenneville in the Blackhawks’ fold, there would clearly be the potential for even more title glory – and at this rate, a shot at a true three-peat in 2015, which would then allow us to fully compare Chicago’s hockey and hoops champs against one another.
Perhaps that will eventually happen. But even if it does, it would still be difficult to decide which of the championship runs is truly the “best,” as such a determination lies in the eye of the beholder, or perhaps, the Cup holder. And in the end, it probably doesn’t really matter, as all championship runs are a blast.
Now, if only we could we let Chicago’s football and baseball teams in on that secret.