The Final Breakdown

LANCE HORNBY, Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 11:00 AM ET

NET WORTH

As great as Michael Leighton has played and with as many of Bernie Parent’s records as he could topple, he won’t be shutting out the Blackhawks for many games at this stage of playoffs. He no longer will have a clear view over the heads of Brian Gionta and Mike Cammalleri, he’ll be looking for cracks of daylight around Dustin Byfuglien.

Then again, compared to the weak spring goaltending that’s been the death knell of the Flyers in the post Ron Hextall years, he should only need to keep being square to the puck and hold his team in the game at this stage and let his teammates see if they can rattle Antti Niemi.

Speaking of which, the 26-year-old Finn has now played almost as many playoff games in 2010 as he did in eight seasons in Europe and in the AHL and not been fazed. He’s survived three series involving five players who ranked in the top 15 NHL regular season scorers. But he’ll need a lot of help from his defence to track Mike Richards, who can threaten from in front of the net, behind and from odd angles.

EDGE: Blackhawks

PUCK LUCK

Home ice for the Hawks, with all due respect for Kate Smith ... Blackhawks have more at stake from a historical perspective, trying to end a longer Cup jinx and needing to get back on the sports’ map at home. But both teams have lost five straight finals since last winning the Cup ... Chicago’s depth seems to pose more problem areas than the Flyers have answers for ... Motivation is on Leighton’s side. Of all his NHL stops, Chicago was the team that first drafted him a way back in 1999.

EDGE: Blackhawks

FIREPOWER

The Flyers have one more goal in one more playoff game than Chicago this spring, but were without Jeff Carter and Simon Gagne for a stretch.

As important as team speed is, net presence is what counts now. That set ups up perhaps the best duel of the final other than the goalies, with 257-pound Hawk Dustin Byfuglien (four game-winning goals and goals in five straight games) fighting for space with Flyers’ shutdown defenceman Chris Pronger.

Byfuglien has made up for Marian Hossa’s scant two goals, but the latter is due to bust out. Hairy Scott Hartnell is the same threat for the Flyers as Byfuglien.

Both team captains lead their respective teams in scoring. Jonathan Toews has 19 assists to Mike Richards’ 15, but the latter is a double threat on special teams.

Daniel Briere and Claude Giroux will give the Hawks fits, while Patrick Kane and Patrick Sharp rank right behind Toews in scoring.

More surprise goals could come from two-way centre David Bolland of the Hawks and Flyers’ Ville Leino.

EDGE: Flyers

D-FENCE

Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook won’t just rock the opposition, they can score, too (19 combined playoff points). Keith’s nearly 28 minutes of ice a night is slightly more than he was averaging in the regular season, but watch for Chicago’s most well-known offensive contributor from the back end, Brian Campbell. He missed 14 games in the regular season and has just three points in 13 games.

There were concerns earlier in the playoffs that the Flyers were leaning too much on Pronger as his ice time crept toward 30 minutes a night. When the Boston series went seven games, coach Peter Laviolette had enough confidence in Ryan Parent and Lukas Krajicek to work them into the rotation and give a rest to the fearsome foursome of Pronger, Kimmo Timmonen, Matt Carle and Braydon Coburn.

Pronger has four of the Philly defence’s six goals, but the Hawks have the ability to spread that scoring out.

EDGE: Blackhawks

SPECIAL HELP LINE

Shot blocking has been raised to a new art form in these playoffs thanks to the Montreal Canadiens, but the two best teams behind them were the Flyers and Hawks with near-identical numbers. Flyers’ Chris Pronger and Ian Laperriere are becoming immune to pain.

The teams were also neck and neck in penalty killing after the Boston Bruins. Mike Richards is a short-handed threat as his dramatic goal in the elimination of Montreal demonstrated. Pronger has three power play goals, but Chicago has its share of creativity and size down low.

EDGE: Flyers

BENCH MARKS

Peter Laviolette has won a Cup already and if league broadcasters had to re-cast ballots for the Jack Adams Award, he might sweep it for arriving just before Christmas and turning the Flyers’ ship around.

He uses four lines effectively, but Chicago’s Joel Quenneville has worked from the same script most of the year and tinkered when needed after losing last year’s conference final to Detroit. This should be the perfect culmination of Quenneville’s 14-year

NHL coaching career.

EDGE: Blackhawks


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