MARLBORO, NY– Today is Championship Sunday in the NFL but I can’t help but bring NHL hockey into today’s conversation. Sometimes, and eerily so, teams in different sports often share similarities hard to ignore. For a few weeks now I’ve been telling our own Angry Ward that this current iteration of his favorite NFL team, the Minnesota Vikings, remind me of the 2011 Stanley Cup Champion Boston Bruins. And no, I’m not high… yet. Bare with me as I expand on how the Vikings are following that storied Boston script.
Exorcism of previous playoff ghosts: Like the one slayed in last week’s Minneapolis Miracle, where the bitter taste of what became known as the Bounty-Gate game that saw New Orleans Saints Defensive Coordinator Gregg Williams suspended the following season for putting a price on Vikings QB Brett Favre in that 31-28 OT loss. Like the Bruins patented failures, the Vikings found a way to lose that game in extra time. In 2011, the Bruins went on to beat the specter of playoffs past by beating the Montreal Canadiens and Philadelphia Flyers.
Step 2 is Philadelphia: This presents yet another opportunity to erase previous playoff losses in The City of Brotherly Loathe. The Vikes and Eagles have met three times (all Minnesota losses) in 1980, 2004, and 2008. The Bruins infamously became one of only a handful of teams to blow a 3-0 series lead in 2010 but would romp Philthy in a four-game sweep in the magical year of 2011. I’m known for predicting games every Sunday so I’m just following the comparison between the Bruins and Vikings by saying Minny finds a way to win today.
Team strengths: They lie on the defensive side of the ball… and ice. There were no offensive superstars on that Cup-winning Boston team and the Minnesota squad lacks high-end, skill position firepower. Similarly, the Bruins were within a few goals of being the least scored upon in 2011 while this year’s Vikings won defensive honors; with the lowest points per game average.
Journeymen: Front and center, Case Keenum is Tim Thomas. Both bounced around and toiled on rosters. Thomas became a 31 year-old rookie in 2005 after stints in the IHL, AHL, ECHL, Finland and Sweden. While he’s not Jim Plunkett, Keenum secured the starting job at age 29. Both the QB and goaltender were thrust into starting roles due to injuries and never looked back during post-season runs. Both also boast top understudies in Sam Bradford and Tuukka Rask.
Skepticism born out of countless disappointments: As extremely long droughts will attest, there is doubt. We know the Vikings have never won the Super Bowl, so we’ll just count their last appearance in the Big Game in 1976 (that’s 41 years if you’re counting). Prior to 2011, the Bruins went 39 years between Cup wins.
A few things are to be expected: Victory won’t come easy, because it never does for these fan bases. It’s always an ass-puckering experience and excruciating, watching these teams in the playoffs. Last week’s late-game magic also mimics the Bruins three Game 7 series wins. Doubts quickly turned optimistic with one positive and improbable game/series. The Minnesota Vikings will be the first team to play AND WIN a
Super Bowl Big Game at home. It’s only fitting for this storybook season.
That’s it. Feel free to comment below and come back tomorrow for DJ Eberle. – who thinks the Sabres may have a run in them…