As far as big-time sports cities go, Flyers-Blackhawks is a marquee matchup.
As far as the NHL is concerned, it's a battle between an Original Six team that has taken the mantle of longest-suffering fan base from the Rangers against a perennial contender that hasn't won a Stanley Cup in 35 years.
Someone's disappointment will end when these Cup Finals are over. Here's a breakdown of the series:
The guys who wear the "C" on each side are truly the leaders of each club. The Blackhawks' Jonathan Toews is the playoff scoring leader with 26 points (seven goals, 19 assists); second in scoring is the Flyers' captain, Mike Richards. The two were among the handful of best players on Team Canada's gold-medal Olympic squad.
Barring a monster series from one of the goaltenders or Patrick Kane, Toews' sidekick, one of the captains will not only take the Cup from Gary Bettman, he'll be returning to hoist the Conn Smythe Trophy as MVP.
Though Richards is more integral to his team's success as a leader, no one has matched Toews' all-around game in the postseason.
Time was in the NHL that the hot goaltender carried his club to the promised land. So far in this postseason, the teams left standing have carried their goaltenders here: Antti Niemi has been very good for Chicago but certainly not consistently great; the Flyers' Mike Leighton wasn't even healthy enough to back up when the postseason began, but here he is with three shutouts in eight games.
Leighton doesn't have the standout defense in front of him that Niemi has, so Leighton will have to be that much better. He's been better coming in.
Philly's Chris Pronger is in his third Finals in five seasons with three different teams. That's the definition of a difference-maker. He's been smart with the puck and a true leader of a defense that wasn't expected to be good enough to win a round. The Blackhawks have Marian Hossa, who is in his third Finals in three seasons with three different teams. They also have Dustin Byfuglien, who throws his body around well and had three game-winning goals in the sweep of the Sharks in the semifinals. Byfuglien and Pronger will see a lot of one another, but Pronger gets the nod going in.
Joel Quenneville has marshaled a tremendously talented team into a well-rounded, focused squad. Peter Laviolette came into Philly in November and somehow got his banged-up squad into the playoffs on the last day of the season, and well beyond. Laviolette is a master motivator who could become just the third coach to win a Stanley Cup with two or more teams, but Quenneville has the edge here because he has so much more to work with.
Philly's mighty mites, Daniel Briere and Claude Giroux, mucked their way through a wild Eastern Conference, and now Simon Gagne and Jeff Carter are healthier. There's also Ian Laperriere, who's back from having his head nearly caved in by a shot.
This is a tough bunch. But faced with Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Kane, Patrick Sharp, John Madden, Marian Hossa and the very underrated Dave Bolland, the Hawks are the favorites here for a big reason.
The 49-year Cup drought will end, in fairly short order.
Blackhawks in five