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I'll take the Kings- and Rangers

The Blackhawks will either host the LA Kings or visit at the Anaheim Pond Sunday in Game One of the Western Conference Final.

Not sure which team I'd rather play, Anaheim looks stronger, but you never want to face Jonathan Quick. But I think home ice advantage is a bigger plus than either matchup affords. I'm hoping, therefore, for LA.

Meanwhile, the way things are playing out in the East are fascinating. Boston eliminated? By Montreal? It's tempting to think that this might be the year we'll get our revenge for all those humiliations in the 'Sixties, and for 1971 above all.

The seventh game of the 1971 playoffs-highlights below- was played at Chicago Stadium, and doubtless was one of the greatest games ever played anywhere. The first two periods wee arked by impossible play by both goalies-the Hawks' Tony Esposito and Montreal's Ken Dryden- two periods of classic playoff hockey and by Chicago goals in the last minute or so of each period. Bobby Hull hit the crossbar with a slapshot that would have made it 3-0. And then, everything fell apart.

The defining factor would be rookie goalie Dryden. Called "the Giraffe, whose 6'4" frame enabled him to stick out his tentacles arms and legs to stop shots most goalies wouldn't have come close to reaching. The Hawks had managed to solve him often enough to win at least half the time in every other game and in the first two periods of Game Seven, but in the third period he was nothing less than superhuman.

Which mattered, because the Habs scored three times in the first ten minutes of the third period, the second on a freakish goal by Jacques Lemaire which eluded Hawks goalie Tony Esposito, an all-time great, but never known for his ability to pick up long shots.
The third was allowed despite an obvious trip of Hawk's defenseman Keith Magnuson in the slot.

The last halfs of the final period was a relentless onslaught by the Hawks, who sent wave after wave of attackers against Dryden, but to no avail. Once Jim Pappin seemed to have an entire half of the net open to him for a shot, but Dryden got one of those pseudopods arms out in time to block it.

Of all my disappointments as a Hawks and even a Cubs fan, I think that was the worst, rivaled only by the "Bartman game" in 2006. Maybe it's because I'd let myself expect to win both of them. So revenge, as I said, would be sweet.

And how 'bout them Rangers? Once again, the Pens- formidable as they were in the regular season- have collapsed when it counted.

But here's the thing: if the Hawks faced the Rangers in the Finals, once again they'd have the home-ice advantage. And once again, that's the deciding factor. As enjoyable as revenge for 1971 would be, I'll be pulling for the Rangers to win their series with Montreal.

Meanwhile, as promised, here are the highlights (or lowlights) of the Seventh Game of the 1971 Finals.


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