The last time they seemed this sure who would win the big contest in Chicago, the banner headline in the Tribune proclaimed Dewey Defeats Truman.
Everyone knows how that early edition backfired on the paper in the 1948 U.S. Presidential election, but in the spring of 2010, everyone from the local scribes to the hockey world’s twitterati should feel quite safe calling the Blackhawks to beat the Philadelphia Flyers in six games at most.
It’s true that predicting the unpredictable NHL this year puts the Hawks in peril of joining the rank road kill of Penguins, Red Wings, Capitals and Canucks that began piling up in mid-April. And if the Flyers can beat Martin Brodeur, come back from three games down to Boston as well as a 3-0 hole in
Game 7 and, finally, pound a stake through the Habs, certainly their chances are at least 50-50, right?
But at the risk of riling Rocky Balboa, it’s time to throw in your orange-and- black cheer towels. As much as one admired mangy looking winger Scott Hartnell for dismissing the Bruins big lead — “means nothing” — and then backing up his words, there’s only room for one great comeback story in June and that’s the Blackhawks’ ending their league-high 49 year Cup drought.
Boston beat Ryan Miller and the Buffalo Sabres and hit the wall, eighth-seeded Montreal went down swinging after winning two rounds (taking thousands of hockey poolies with them) and now, the Flyers will have to be content with eight home playoff sellouts, reclaiming the title as Pennsylvania’s best team, bringing the Prince of Wales Trophy in the room for a few minutes and using it all as a great launching pad for a Cup run in 2011.
This is a match of the youngest team captains since the 1975 final when 24-year-old Bobby Clarke led the Flyers over 22-year-old Jim Schoenfeld and the Sabres. But as well as Mike Richards has emulated Clarke, Jonathan Toews has a 13-game points streak heading into Saturday’s opener (seven goals, 18 assists), beating Stan Mikita’s club record.
In every key area the Flyers are strong, the Hawks are as good or a bit better. Yes, the Flyers can boast Michael Leighton’s string of shutouts against Hawks newcomer Antti Niemi and they have Chris Pronger to clean the front yard, but neither man has yet to deal with Hawks’ Dustin Byfuglien, who won’t fit in a conventional blue bin.
“I’m not Peter Laviolette,” Hawks’ Cup veteran centre John Madden said in complimenting the rival coach on NHL.com, “but I wouldn’t even know where to begin when you look at some of the things that are going on with our team.
“If you spend too much (time on) Buff, you’ve got Johnny and (Patrick) Kane. And then (Dave) Bolland is playing well, (Patrick) Sharp. We’ve got guys who can step in if you pay too much attention to one guy.”
The Hawks are enjoying a draft rebuild that began in 2002 with Duncan Keith and have added pieces every year; Brent Seabrook, Byfuglien, Bolland, Troy Brouwer, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Toews, ending with Kane in 2007. The Flyers have done wonders, too, after big-name trades and free agents let them down.
But it’s time to harvest silver in Chicago.