The Philadelphia Flyers and Chicago Blackhawks will each have their fair share of storylines when the puck drops on the 2010 Stanley Cup Final Saturday night at the “Madhouse on Madison”. And while the walls will shake inside the United Center in extreme anticipation of glory, the picture that will stand in the memory of all involved when this series is said and done is the infamous picture of NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and either Jonathan Toews or Mike Richards holding the Stanley Cup.
The Flyers and Blackhawks have each had a long and arduous ride to the Final, although many on the Flyers side will argue that there is no way the Chicago Blackhawks have endured the hardships the Orange and Black have gone through to get to their current predicament: four wins from hockey immortality. While I easily agree with that assessment, it doesn’t take away from the fact that in this series we will see two of the great young leaders in the game today.
The Blackhawks’ captain Jonathan Toews embodies the qualities that many would expect to see in a seasoned veteran, all enveloped inside of a 21 year old kid’s body. He plays with a passion and determination not necessarily spotlighted with physical play or running his mouth, but instead playing like a true professional, and letting the speed from his legs, dazzling moves with his stick, and the ability to make fantastic plays with his strong hockey mind do the talking. So far, it’s worked out tremendously well in “The Windy City” for the former third overall pick from Winnipeg, Manitoba. Toews, who formerly starred big-time at the University of North Dakota, became the good fortunes of the Blackhawks when he was passed up on the first two picks of the 2006 NHL Draft. Instead, he fell to the third slot and became the core of a tremendously talented youth movement in Chicago.
Flanked by the likes of Patrick Kane (1st overall pick in 2007), Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and company, expectations from fans for a team and a franchise that once dwindled in the twilight now have the visions of Lord Stanley’s chalice dancing through their heads. And frankly, who can blame them? The Blackhawks just swept the best team in the Western Conference in the regular season, and did so by winning two games on their home ice, which had previously been a detriment to their team, believe it or not. In fact, those last two wins finally got the ‘Hawks above .500 this postseason at the United Center (5-3). They are 7-1 on the road. A big reason for the vast majority of their success has been the performance of the youngest captain in franchise history. Toews is easily the top choice out of Chicago for the Conn Smythe Trophy (Playoff MVP), as he has paced the ‘Hawks with seven goals, and 19 assists, good for a playoffs-leading 26 points. He sparks them at five-on-five, calls the signals on their powerplay, and even kills penalties as well. While Patrick Kane brings the flashiness, and Dustin Byfuglien brings the taunts, Toews just plays hockey.
And, so far, all he’s done is put the city of Chicago just four wins away from their first Stanley Cup Championship since 1961.