Flyers vs. Blackhawks for Stanley Cup; please be brutal, finals

The last time the Philadelphia Flyers won the Stanley Cup was the year "Jaws" was released in theaters. The last time the Chicago Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup, John F. Kennedy was in his first year in the Oval Office.

Someone is breaking a rather massive drought in the 2010 Stanley Cup Finals.

Who takes the Cup?

The Flyers eliminated the Montreal Canadiens, 4-2, in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals, playing the type of blue-collar hockey that's symbolized their incredible run from No. 7 seed to the championship round, their first appearance there since 1997.

They've won eight of their last nine playoff games, they're healthier than they've been since the first round, and Peter Laviolette has them playing a smothering brand of shot-blocking defense in their own zone and tenacious fore-checking at the other end of the ice.

Not bad for a team that came one shootout goal away from missing the playoffs.

The Chicago Blackhawks are waiting for them in the finals, the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference that humbled the San Jose Sharks in a sweep. Since Rocky Wirtz took over as owner, there's been a renaissance for hockey in the Windy City that quickly developed into expectations for a championship. Perhaps you've seen their mural.

They haven't been to the finals since 1992. That was the team of Roenick and Larmer and Chelios; now it's the team of Toews and Kane and Keith.

What we're most looking forward to: The physical battles between stars and grunts. Chris Pronger(notes) vs. Dustin Byfuglien(notes) in the crease. Dave Bolland(notes) against Simon Gagne(notes) or Jeff Carter(notes). The lower line bangers from each team literally leaving their impressions on hockey history. Maybe a little blood. Hockey Gods-willing.

The goalies, anonymous back in October, are on the NHL's biggest stage now. Rookie Antti Niemi(notes), proving every cynic and critic wrong by coming up huge when it mattered, vs. Michael Leighton(notes), the Flyers' emergency netminder in the regular season who carried them to postseason contention, went down to injury and bounced back to help crown a conference champ.

The same Michael Leighton who was a Chicago Blackhawks rookie in 2003, only to be cast off by the team the following season. You might hear this story once or twice in the next week.

Flyers vs. Blackhawks. Two great sports towns, two boisterous home-ice advantages, and two teams that can flat out bring the nasty. There may be hope for these playoffs yet.

Provided, of course, The Hossa Hex doesn't completely undermine the Blackhawks ...

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