Leading up to Saturday's Game 1, Puck Daddy's Sean Leahy and Greg Wyshynski are previewing every facet of the Stanley Cup Finals between the Philadelphia Flyers and the Chicago Blackhawks — on the ice and off the ice.
Philadelphia is a blue-collar, hard-working team that's bucked expectations and scrapped its way to the Stanley Cup Finals. Hence, it's only appropriate that half their players look like longshoremen.
Chicago is a quirkier bunch: Some veteran stalwarts, some personable young stars and some real oddballs. They've seemed predestined to be in this spot for two years; and during that time, they've grown to look the part (as you'll seen with captain Jonathan Toews(notes) in a moment).
Here's a sample of 10 beards from the Stanley Cup finalists that offer a complete picture of their current states of playoff foliage.
Who has the Playoff Beard advantage with the Cup on the line?
First up, the Eastern Conference Champion Philadelphia Flyers
Captains in hockey are expected to lead by example, and Richards fulfills the obligations of wearing the 'C' for Philly with his A-plus playoff beard effort. Look at what Richards looks like freshly shorn in the regular season to fully appreciate the depths of this bedraggled tangle of hair. There are hitchhikers in the Yukon that have less impressive foliage.
Please recall Lappy's appearance on a commercial blooper reel earlier this season, when he looked like a thug from a James Bond film and sounded like a 97-year-old without his dentures, thanks to hockey-related tooth loss. His shaved head/massive beard combo for the playoffs is an improved and unique look — love the flecks of gray for a veteran grinder. Although we're skeptical about Laperriere making it through an airport security checkpoint without a hassle ...
A much-maligned player in the regular season, Briere has been one of the Flyers' top performers in the playoffs with nine goals and nine assists. It's gotta be the beard. Our only hope is that there are diplomatic talks between Briere's sideburns and his facial hair to help bridge their obvious gap in relations. Maybe Sidney Crosby can mediate.
Leino arrived from the Detroit Red Wings during the regular season, was thrust into a prominent postseason role due to injures, and has been a standout for Philly on the ice and in the beard department. Look at that thing: It juts out like a dangerous rock formation on a New England shoreline. This is what Jay Leno would look like with a playoff beard. Only funny.
Finally for the Flyers, their MVP of playoff foliage. It's gotten to the point where Hartnell could just dunk his entire head in a vat of shampoo ... assuming there's a scintilla of grooming and/or upkeep going on there.
He's about a week away from tucking his beard into his jersey like an ascot.
Chewbacca looks at this thing and thinks Hartnell let himself go.
Meanwhile, for the Chicago Blackhawks ...
One of the more whimsical players on the Blackhawks roster, Burish's beard not only looks the part but clearly serves as a storage option for nourishment during the game. Here, Burish is consuming a little leftover sauce from an Uno's pie that afternoon.
We've seen goalie beards come and go during these playoffs based on superstition. (We know: Superstitious goalies? What's next, wet rain?) Roberto Luongo(notes) and Martin Brodeur(notes) both shaved their faces after their teams' fortunes took a turn for the worse. Since Niemi hasn't lost back-to-back games in the playoffs through three rounds, he's proudly sporting a chinstrap-bursting tumbleweed.
Would anyone notice if Nick Stahl from "Terminator 3" snuck in between the pipes in Chicago?
Jonathan Toews, Center
We've seen what the Flyers' captain looks like; here's the Blackhawks' captain. Last postseason, Toews resembled a Victorian-era vampire with burgeoning mutton chops. The chops are still prominent here, but have been incorporated into a jaw-line beard that makes Toews look like the captain of an Amish golf team. It's getting better, but we can't help but think it'd be improved with a pig nose.
If it's the Stanley Cup Playoffs, then it must be time for Campbell to unleash the ginger beast on an unsuspecting public. In her article "The Art of the Playoff Beard," Puck Daddy contributor Margee said it better than we could ever hope to say it:
With the beard, you want to sniff his flannel shirt while he hangs deer antlers all around your cabin in Vail. Is it that the beard covers his lack of legitimate chin? Or does the extra red hair deflect from his Scut Farkus-ish yellow eyes? Either way, Campbell's beard is the unicorn of postseason facial hair.
Indeed a rarity ... like a defenseman who doesn't play much defense making $7.14 million against the cap.
Patrick Kane, Winger
Finally, both our greatest thrill and disappointment of the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoff grooming competition: Patrick Kane.
We were promised a mullet, and we were given one by the plucky Blackhawks winger. But the mullet was supposed to redefine playoff tradition, as Kane vowed to go sans beard this postseason.
As you can see, that plan's been dropped like a couple of dimes. At best he's Matthew McConaughey after an all-night bongo bender; at worst, he's Spencer Pratt's trashy cousin from South Jersey, getting in some hockey before he gets back to work on his Camaro.
Philadelphia Flyers. It's like comparing a New American cuisine restaurant with a classic steakhouse: The Blackhawks have some familiar looks and a slew of non-traditional ones with varying degrees of success; the Flyers are the meat and potatoes of playoff beards ... and not just because that covers two of the food groups Scott Harntell currently has buried.