By Steve Silverman-
(CBS) The NHL likes to promote itself with a series of promotional announcements called “History Will Be Made.”
During the playoffs, the league will break out past playoff highlights of its greatest and most memorable moments and then rewind the event so viewers can easily see the instant a shot was fired or a save was made. Bobby Orr’s famous 1970 overtime goal is one of those “History Will Be Made” moments. So is Patrick Kane’s championship-winning overtime goal for the Blackhawks over the Flyers two years ago. It’s a fairly clever campaign because it gets the message across (without being preachy) that every playoff game is worth watching.
Hockey fans and basketball fans have never seen teams from the same city win the winter championships in the same year. Teams from Boston, Chicago and New York have come close, but it has never happened. There is a chance that it could happen this year, and Chicago may have the best chance of pulling off the feat.
Of course, having a healthy Derrick Rose and Jonathan Toews would increase those chances.
Here’s the closest teams have come. In 1972, the New York Knicks and Rangers both made it to the finals of their respective leagues. The Knicks lost in five games to Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West and the Los Angeles Lakers while the Rangers lost in six games to Orr and the Boston Bruins. In 1974, the Boston Celtics beat the Milwaukee Bucks in seven games in the NBA Finals, but the Bruins lost the Stanley Cup Finals to the pugnacious Philadelphia Flyers in six games. In 1992, the Bulls won their second straight NBA title when they beat the Portland Trail Blazers in six games, but the Blackhawks lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins in four games.
This year, teams from five cities have a chance to achieve the rare double championship. Here’s how it breaks down.
1. Chicago – The Bulls are in first place in the Eastern Conference and should be able to maintain that position by the end of the regular season. While they appeared to be on a collision course with the Miami Heat for the top spot in the East, both teams have challenges. For the Bulls, the biggest challenge is finding a way to get Rose on the floor and keep him healthy. He has been out with toe, back, groin and ankle injuries so far, and it may be difficult for him to stay healthy in the postseason. If he can, the Bulls could get past Miami and surprising Boston and get to the NBA Finals. The Hawks may have finished as the No. 6 team in the Western Conference but they have as well-rounded a game as any team in their conference and their only questions concern goaltending and Toews’s health. If both can be answered, the Hawks have a legitimate chance to get back to the Stanley Cup Finals.
2. Boston – The Bruins are the defending Stanley Cup champions and have the kind of well-rounded game to repeat. Goalie Tim Thomas and Zdeno Chara lead them defensively and they have offensive depth. While they were somewhat erratic in the regular season, it will take an overwhelming effort to beat them in a 7-game series. Written off as ancient and decrepit in the first half of the season, the Celtics have been shockingly good in the second half of the year. Kevin Garnett looked awful at the start of the season, but he has found new energy. The Celtics recently swept a home-and-home series with overhyped Miami, and that gives them an impressive resume. Still, it’s difficult to see them beating Chicago or Miami in a postseason series.
3. Miami – A longshot here, but the Florida Panthers upset preseason predictions to win the Southeast Division and take the No. 3 seed in the NHL’s Eastern Conference. Dale Tallon has put together a feisty team that is not expected to go more than a round in the playoffs, but they do have home-ice advantage against New Jersey. If they can beat the Devils, they will be playing with house money. There’s no denying the Heat’s talent, but it would be nice if they decided to play a little defense. Having to play the Celtics and the Bulls in the playoffs may be their undoing.
4. New York – The Rangers are one of the favorites to win the Stanley Cup this year after taking first place in the Eastern Conference. Henrik Lundqvist may be the best goaltender in the league and this team blocks shots like crazy. The Knicks have a two-game lead over the Bucks for the No. 8 spot in the Eastern Conference. They will almost certainly be cannon fodder for the Bulls if they make it to the playoffs. However, Carmelo Anthony is an explosive scorer and the team has responded fairly well to the coaching of Mike Woodson.
5. Los Angeles – The Kings finished eighth in the West, but they are off and running in the playoffs as they beat Vancouver in Game 1 of their playoff series and they have an outstanding goaltender in Jonathan Quick and a solid playoff performer in Mike Richards. The Lakers are not getting much respect from NBA experts even though they have Kobe Bryant and are third in the Western Conference. Give them a puncher’ chance
Steve Silverman is an award-winning writer, covering sports since 1980. Silverman was with Pro Football Weekly for 10 years and his byline has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Playboy, NFL.com and The Sporting News. He is the author of four books, including Who’s Better, Who’s Best in Football — The Top 60 Players of All-Time. Follow him on Twitter (@profootballboy) and read more of his CBS Chicago columns here.