Well...this is it. As early as a week from tomorrow (or as late as two weeks from tomorrow) we will have our 2010 Stanley Cup champion crowned.
Well, yay from me because the Champion will not be:
But, I'm not going to lie, the idea of it being Philadelphia raising a banner next fall does not exactly inspire warm and fuzzy feelings for a Rangers fan.
Either way, I am excited for the Final.
Not as excited as I'd be if Les Habs could have continued their "Feels like '93" drive-for-25 journey, but...
instead we have:
I will not take credit - much - for this but I did pick Philadelphia to win their division this season. So, on some level, I did think they'd be better than a team that was struggling to gain entrance to the playoffs on the last day of the season (yeah, you reading, me typing - still painful). Anyway, I thought they'd be good. Without care for major details here, just 3 seasons ago they finished the season dead last. 30th of 30. The following year they were one of the four final teams standing, before they lost to eventual runner-up Pittsburgh in the Eastern Finals. They bowed out to Pittsburgh early last year, before the Penguins,
(oh stop, I can't type that too; I'm trying to get through this).
Anyway, point is, Paul Holmgren and co must be doing something right. Teams don't go from so bad to so good without someone capable in charge do they? (Other example, please see Phoenix Coyotes, Don Maloney, Dave Tippett).
The Flyers are in the Final because they are a good team, whether we want to believe it or not, but probably more importantly, because as cliche as this is, they believed in the why not us, mentality. And hell of goalie performances (how great were Boucher and Leighton for this team? Those are great stories!) for a team that has - well quite honestly - for the last few decades had goalie situations about as stable as Glen Slather's understanding of simple math.
But I digress...
Chicago is the team that we wish would win, as Rangers fans. They are young, they are fun, and they are a pleasure to watch. In fact, my only regret (if I can name one) in watching both a West and an East coast team on such a regular basis, is that I have no real chance to watch Chicago as much as I would like to. They are a treat.
Probably one of the unique stories in sports for me, I was too young to know or appreciate the Blackhawks when they were good. In fact, the Blackhawks have not existed for me until 2008. (As some may say is true for those in Chicago as well). They've had a renaissance, part because of drafting well, and part because of the timely death of their principal owner who had many antiquated thoughts. Until three years ago this team didn't show home games on TV! Until they made the playoffs and went on a run to the Western Final last year - they had made the playoffs once in the previous nine seasons!
They, as Rangers fans may or may not know, are the only Original Six team to be less successful - if true success is measured in Stanley Cups) - than the New York Rangers themselves. Both around since the 1926 campaign, the Hawks have only lifted Lord Stanley's chalice 3 times. The Rangers, thank all that is wonderful and holy, finally won their 4th in 1994.
Interesting to note, however, the Blackhawks have won 14 division titles to the Rangers 5, and 2 conference championships to the Rangers 1. (Guess we really do know who is the most un-inspired of the Original Six, now, don't we. Sigh).
Anyway, the Blackhawks raised from the ashes on the backs of two young forwards in Kane and Toews. And they may just complete - what I would assume - is one of the greatest turnarounds in franchise history. 9 years of obscurity, to a Final 4 appearance, to a Stanley Cup appearance to....
Well we'll just have to wait and see now, won't we. ;)
Even though the Blackhawks winning would make the Rangers that much more unsuccessful, I'd like to see the Hawks do it. And not just because I really don't want to see Philadelphia win it, but because I want to see their story completed. The right way.
I want to say this will end in fewer games, but I do not want to take credit away from Philadelphia, because they've been mighty impressive.
Final Prediction: Hawks in 6!