2010 Stanley Cup Finals: Philadelphia vs. Chicago

This is one of those posts that hurts to write.

You think about mailing it in at first, alter that original idea and consider doing a breakdown of this magnitude, only to finally decide that just shooting the shit will help ease the painful realization that the Sharks won't be showing up on your television screen for another four months.

You make a joke based off the stereotypes surrounding Philadelphia citizens...

The United Center may be called The Madhouse, but the Wachovia Center likely deserves that nomiker considering Philadelphia's long history of mental issues.

...only to realize its not as funny when you inform the reader a subpar attempt at humor is coming down the tracks. Finally, you decide to begin the next paragraph with a transitional phrase in order to keep the article (which you already botched from the outset) moving along to it's eventual conclusion.

At any rate, the NHL released their final schedule late last night, and here is what we have on the docket for the final playoff series of 2010-- damn near breaks your heart to realize hockey is finally coming to a close:

Stanley Cup Finals Television Schedule

Date Location Time (PST)
G1 Sat May 29th
@ Chicago 5:00 NBC, CBC
G2 Mon May 31st
@ Chicago 5:00 NBC, CBC
G3 Wed June 2nd
@ Philadelphia 5:00 Versus, CBC
G4 Fri June 4th
@ Philadelphia 5:00 Versus, CBC
G5 Sun June 6th
@ Chicago 5:00 NBC, CBC
G6 Wed June 9th
@ Philadelphia 5:00 NBC, CBC
G7 Fri June 11th
@ Chicago 5:00 NBC, CBC

The convenient storyline of the series, and the one that is probably on point, will be Philadelphia's strength versus the Hawks speed. If Philadelphia can stay strong in the corners and try to wear down Chicago's blueliners, they have a pretty good chance of stealing a few games throughout the series.

Goaltending has been an issue for Philadelphia for what seems like forever now, and Chicago has dealt with their fair share of hiccups this season as well. However, it is pretty evident at this point that both teams have ridden some solid performances into the Finals. Whether Leighton or Niemi can continue that is up for debate, but from what I've seen, it doesn't appear as if they're due for an implosion of epic proportions. Probably a wash here, with the edge going to Niemi considering he looked phenomenal against San Jose. Montreal isn't exactly Chicago when it comes to firepower.

In terms of forwards, Philadelphia matches up as well as a seven seed can expect to. Getting Simon Gagne and Jeff Carter back was huge for them, and coupled with Claude Giroux, Mike Richards, Danny Briere, Scott Hartnell, Ville Leino, and James Van Riemsdyk, it's a pretty solid cast top to bottom.

The blueline of Philadelphia is fairly deep as well, with Matt Carle, Braydon Coburn, and Ryan Parent being three young guys who can definitely carry their weight on the backend. I'd like to see the latter two in teal any day of the week, and always felt like San Jose rushed Carle's development a bit by bringing him up so quickly through the system. Kimmo Timonen is a vastly underrated defenseman, and while he's definitely not the one guy in Philadelphia anymore, the talent he brings to the table shouldn't be overlooked. The Flyers have a good 1-2 pop that can limit some of Chicago's chances.

Then there's Chris Pronger. I've always been a secret fan of the guy, which probably means that I came out of the closet earlier this season:

He's been Public Enemy Number One, labeled a menace to society, voted the dirtiest player in the NHL, been booed at 30 arenas in the league (even including one he played for), and cursed every organization that traded him. He's terrorized the Sharks for a decade, first with St. Louis, then with Edmonton, then with Anaheim.

And yet, I love the guy.

Call me a turncoat. Go ahead. I'll elbow you right in the mouth, stomp on your buddy, pulverize your star forward and defend my crease like lives are on the line. I'll play 30 minutes a night, make my below average partner look like a goddamn magician, kill penalties while skipping the shift change and thread a pass to spring a breakaway. I'll spit, I'll scowl, I'll swear, I'll flash a cocky grin.

Then I'll rip home a howitzer in the second overtime. And you will rue the day that I was ever born.

-- Sharks Gameday: Chris Pronger, Defenseman

On a side note, the fact that we won't be seeing a gameday post for another four months is brutal beyond belief. Still hasn't completely set in.

The interesting dynamic between the two teams is the fact that a couple players have had considerably deep runs lately, both with at least three different teams. Both Marian Hossa (63) and Chris Pronger (79) are the obvious ones, but Brian Campbell has logged an astounding 77 postseason games played since the NHL shut it's doors. Briere (74) is up there too.

At any rate, the dynamic between a man who is always on the right side of history in Chris Pronger (who saw a cinderella run to the Finals with Edmonton in 2006, a Stanley Cup with Anaheim in 2007, knocking out the 2009 Presidents' Trophy winners in 2009, and yet another deep playoff run with Philadelphia this season) versus a man who always seems to find himself on the wrong side of history in Marian Hossa (playing for Pittsburgh and losing to Detroit in 2008, playing for Detroit and losing to Pittsburgh in 2009, his third straight Stanley Cup Finals appearance this year) is an interesting side story for me, even if the two players probably won't see much of each other at even strength-- I'd assume Pronger gets tasked with Toews, while Timonen goes up against Hossa.

Whatever the case may be, I'll be watching the Stanley Cup Finals from start to finish as I do every year. Although the Sharks rapid ousting in the Western Conference Finals still hurts, the conclusion of the greatest tournament in all of sport is something no one should ever consider passing up.

I'll be backing Philadelphia for a couple of reasons, but as we've seen all year, Chicago is probably the best team in the NHL. They're just way too deep to falter after coming this far, even when one takes into consideration Pronger's mystical qualities. As if sports writers needed another opportunity to reference "a will to win."

Hawks in six, The Cursed Slovak gets his Cup, and Byfuglien gets crosschecked in the head by Pronger about seventeen times.

Go Flyers.