Chicago Blackhawks vs Philadelphia Flyers

Headliner: To steal yet another perfect pun from Ron Maclean of Hockey Night In Canada – Rocky Balboa meets up with Rocky Wirtz.  The city of brotherly love meets the Windy City.  Chris Pronger, meet Dustin Byfuglien.  Kapeesh?

How they got here: Chicago swept San Jose in 4 games, Philadelphia defeated Montreal in 5 games

Conn Smythe Trophy Candidates:  – Chicago: Dustin Byfuglien, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp; Philadelphia: Chris Pronger, Mike Richards, Danny Briere, Michael Leighton

Hero potential: Best defined as the one player per team who could make a difference when it’s least expected, but comes around in the right place at the right time.  Example - Mike Rupp scored the game and series winning goal in Game 7 between New Jersey and Anaheim in 2003.  Last year, in Game 7 between Pittsburgh and Detroit, it was Max Talbot.  In Chicago, while people reminisce about Stan Mikita and Bobby Hull, a lot of talk is being made about Ab McDonald, who scored the winner in Game 6 between the Hawks and Red Wings way back in 1961, the last time the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup.  Who will make history?  Just for laughs, here are my thoughts on who might be such a difference maker: Chicago – Dave Bolland; Philadelphia – Ville Leino.  Time will tell if I’m right.

Chicago wins if: They can somehow, anyhow, break the Marian Hossa jinx.  Pittsburgh experienced it in 2008, Detroit experienced it last year.  Hossa must really be starting to wonder if 3rd time is a charm, as this is now the 3rd straight year he’s been to the finals, yet he’s still looking to lift the Stanley Cup over his head for the first time.  Ottawa fans know all too well about this and to this day relish the fact he’s still looking to win it all.

The obvious answer for the Blackhawks winning their first championship in 49 years is keep doing what they’ve been doing – and they’ve been doing a lot of scoring, both even strength and special teams, and if Antti Niemi can continue to answer the critics who said he was questionable.  I don’t think we can question the goaltending any longer in Chicago.  Who knew Nikolai Khabibulin wasn’t the guy?  The only problem I can foresee is if Niemi fails, there isn’t another option other than Cristobal Huet.  At this stage do you really want to rely on your backup?  Who am I kidding here, Philadelphia won two rounds with their backup!

Philadelphia wins if: They can stay healthy and keep the karma going.  Throughout the Montreal series, the Flyers got a huge lift with the return of Jeff Carter and Ian Laperriere.  How could you not get chills watching Laperriere block shots with a full face shield after what he went through earlier in the playoffs (brain contusion)?  There’s talk Brian Boucher, who many thought wasn’t coming back this season, might be able to at least play backup to Michael Leighton, who for the time being has won the right to be the man in net.  Chris Pronger has been here before, both on the winning and losing end.  Experience seems to be the theme of the day in the city of brotherly love.

We’ve seen so much during this playoff run.  I can make several cases for either team to win it all, and they would all make sense.  Before the season a lot of people were picking the Flyers to be here, as it turned out, for all the wrong reasons.  A lot of people were picking the Blackhawks to be here.  The Flyers already pulled off a 7th vs 2nd upset in the first round, now they’ll look to pull off an inter conference 7th vs 2nd upset, but not if the Blackhawks can help it.  Flip a coin and decide.  Both teams have the goaltending they need.  Both teams have great defense (Keith, Seabrook and Campbell vs Pronger, Laperriere and Carle).  Both teams have explosive offense that can kill you on the scoreboard if you make a mistake (Toews, Kane, Byfuglien vs Richards, Carter, Briere).   Both teams have been good on special teams.  Both arenas have music that gives you chills (The Fratellis’ “Chelsea Dagger” in Chicago, and the late great Kate Smith singing God Bless America with current anthem singer Lauren Hart in Philadelphia).  Both teams have waited a long time to be given this opportunity.  One thing everybody seems to be able to agree upon is this will be a long, hard fought series – obviously the hardest series both teams have had to endure so far.  It’s really a shame only one can win, but this is how it is.  I can’t do it.  I can't pick a winner.  I have no idea what’s going to happen anymore.   It’s just been one of those years.

Prediction: Coin toss – History Will Be Made – in 6

That’s all you get from me.  Enjoy the final, it’s going to be a dandy!


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