Friday, May 28, 2010
By Brett Ballantini
CHICAGO This is it, Cinderella Philadelphians. Take your best shot and steal a win Saturday or face a painful and inevitable snatching of the Stanley Cup from your bruised and calloused hands.
(Full disclosure: Ive picked the Blackhawks in fiveand if Im wrong, Id say the series will tip closer to a four-gamer than six.)
Winning Game 1 is certainly the best, and nearly only, option for the Philadelphia Flyers if they want to upset the Chicago Blackhawks to win the 2010 Stanley Cup. While Philadelphia may indeed be a team of destiny, its a lot more likely its destiny will be as the fourth team in major sports history and third NHL team to come back from a 3-0 deficit to advance in a series, period, (premature) end of story. And while the destiny stuff is stirring, really, cmon, the Flyers romped over the No. 2-seeded New Jersey Devils and pretty well dismantled the hottest goalie in hockey, Jaro Halak, in dismissing the Montreal Canadiens. Both of those series were sleepwalkswhere does all the drama and destiny kick in?
Besides, until Philly went ham on the Boston Bruins and made them an unenviable footnote to history as victims of a double 3-0 rally, if there was a team of destiny, it was the Hawks. Just 14 seconds from a do-or-die game in Nashville down 3-2 to the Predators in the quarters, Chicago tied Game 5 with on a shortie by Patrick Kane and won it a few minutes into overtime on a Marian Hossa tally.
But enough of the battle over who gets to roll Bittersweet Symphony behind their team highlights this season. The crux of the biscuit: How can Philadelphia win Game 1? Its easy, but it requires swallowing some pride and slowing the game down. All indications are that Philly wants to fly high and get into a sprinting match with Chicago, and it doesnt matter how many Rocky montages they watch in the Flyers pregame dressing room with Chicagos few-hit-wonders Survivor supplying the soundtrack, that strategy aint gonna fly now. The one openingand its barn-door wide, actuallyis for Philly to opt for heavy sandpaper grit mode, slow the game down and demoralize a still relatively young, somewhat impressionable Blackhawks team.
Redshirts fans will scoff: No manner of sloggy or slushy play will deter my Blackhawks from the Cup. While that is a romantic notion, and Im a romantic fella, verdict: hogwash. The Preds, who had no business forcing Chicago into a panic, did so time and time again (Games 1, 3, 5). The Blackhawks came within 14 seconds of having their Stanley Cup dream deferredby Nashville. A team that wasnt too proud to slush it up.
Barring a slowdown game, the Flyers have little hope short of Jabberwocky stuff: Transformers exploding and shortening Game 1; a train derailing to delay Game 3; human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria scarring Game 5, ad infinitum.
This is the series you wanted, Philadelphia. Now go out there and act like you want to win it. Otherwise, by Game 4, women and children will have to turn away from the sights that will be seen.
Brett Ballantini is CSNChicago.com's Blackhawks Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnik on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Hawks information.