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Storylines for the Stanley Cup Final

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How They Got Here

The second-seeded Blackhawks advanced to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 1992 by defeating the top-ranked San Jose Sharks in four games in the Western Conference Final. Blackhawks forward Dustin Byfuglien provided the heroics with three game-winning goals, including the overtime winner in Game 3 that gave the Hawks a stranglehold on the series and the series-clincher late in the third period of Game 4. Captain Jonathan Toews led the Blackhawks with six points (1 goal, 5 assists), extending his playoff point streak to 13 games, and goaltender Antti Niemi posted a 1.67 GAA and .949 save percentage.

For the second consecutive year the Blackhawks posted a six-game series victory over the Vancouver Canucks in the Conference semifinals, clinching the series one year to the day after doing so in 2009. Toews was the series' dominant figure, leading all scorers with 12 points (four goals, eight assists) in six games, highlighted by a five-point performance (3-2--5) in a 7-4 win at Vancouver in Game 4. The Blackhawks' 6-4, 257-lb. Byfuglien was a fixture in front of the Vancouver goal, tallying four goals to match Toews for the club goal-scoring lead.

The Blackhawks defeated the Nashville Predators in six games in their Conference quarterfinal series. Rallying from 1-0 and 2-1 deficits in the series, the ‘Hawks rode two Antti Niemi shutouts to get even through four games. They took their first lead in the series with a wild Game 5 victory in which they needed a Patrick Kane shorthanded goal with 14 seconds left in regulation to get to overtime, where Marian Hossa scored upon emerging from the penalty box. Chicago settled down to salt away the series upon emerging from a dizzying first period of Game 6 with a 4-3 lead.

The Flyers, who required a shootout victory on the last day of the regular season to qualify for the playoffs, became just the fifth club seeded as low as seventh under the current playoff format to advance to the Stanley Cup Final with a 4-1 series victory over the Montreal Canadiens in the Eastern Conference Final. Goaltender Michael Leighton posted three shutouts and Claude Giroux emerged as the latest Flyers hero up front, leading all players in scoring (3-3--6) and plus-minus (plus7).

The Flyers pulled off a stunning comeback in the Conference semifinals against Boston, joining the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs (vs. Detroit) and the 1975 New York Islanders (vs. Pittsburgh) as the only teams in Stanley Cup Playoff history to rebound from a 0-3 series deficit. Philadelphia lost starting goaltender Brian Boucher to injury in the second period of Game 5 and turned to Leighton, who stopped 66 of 70 shots he faced the rest of the way to complete Philadelphia's improbable comeback. The Flyers staved off elimination in Game 4 when Simon Gagne, who had missed the previous four games due to injury, scored at 14:40 of overtime to propel his team to a 5-4 victory.

The Flyers defeated the New Jersey Devils in five games in their Conference quarterfinal. Dan Carcillo scored 3:35 into overtime and lifted Philadelphia to a Game 3 victory from which the Flyers never looked back. In his first significant NHL postseason action in 10 years, veteran Boucher was brilliant, posting a 1.59 goals against average and .940 save percentage, both tops among playoff goaltenders.

Playoff History:
The Blackhawks and Flyers have met once in Stanley Cup Playoff history, a series that ended in a four-game sweep by Chicago in the 1971 quarterfinals. The powerhouse Blackhawks had captured the West Division title during the regular season and featured Bobby and Dennis Hull plus Stan Mikita up front, Pat Stapleton and Keith Magnuson on defense and Tony Esposito in goal. For the Flyers, competing in just their fourth NHL season, the series marked the playoff debut of forwards Bobby Clarke and Rick MacLeish, two stars for the future back-to-back Stanley Cup champions in 1974 and 1975.

Season Series:
The Flyers edged the Blackhawks 3-2 in their only regular-season meeting on March 13 at the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia. After two scoreless periods, the teams erupted for five goals in the third, including three lead changes. The Flyers broke the ice with a Gagne goal early in the final period, the Blackhawks took the lead 2-1 and the Flyers pushed back with two of their own, capped by a Chris Pronger goal with 2.1 seconds left in regulation. Leighton earned first star honors with a 39-save performance while Cristobal Huet took the loss for the Blackhawks.

Long Time Coming:
The Blackhawks are vying for their fourth Stanley Cup championship since joining the NHL in 1926-27. They won in 1934, 1938 and 1961. The Flyers have won two Stanley Cups since their debut in 1967, becoming the first expansion team to win the trophy in 1974 and making a successful defense in 1975.

Both clubs have come up empty in five Stanley Cup Final series since last winning the title: the Blackhawks in 1962 (to Toronto), 1965, 1971 and 1973 (to Montreal) and 1992 (to Pittsburgh); the Flyers in 1976 (to Montreal), 1980 (to NY Islanders), 1985 and 1987 (to Edmonton) and 1997 (to Detroit).

Young Stars, Leaders:
The trend toward younger team captains in the NHL is reflected in the Stanley Cup Final with the matchup between the 22-year-old Jonathan Toews of the Blackhawks and 25-year-old Mike Richards of the Flyers. Toews is the youngest active NHL captain and would become the second-youngest captain to hoist the Cup after 21-year-old Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins last year. Richards' performance in the 2010 postseason is evoking memories of Flyers great Bobby Clarke, who was 24 when he led Philadelphia to its first title in 1974.

The last Stanley Cup Final that featured a matchup of captains this young was 1975, when Clarke (25) led the Flyers to a six-game series win over the Buffalo Sabres and captain Jim Schoenfeld (22).

Toews and Richards, teammates on Canada's gold medal-winning team at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, rank 1-2 in playoff points (Toews 7-19--26, Richards 6-15--21) and playoff assists.

Both players were first-round draft picks, Richards in 2003 (No. 24) and Toews in 2006 (No. 3), and their intangible qualities were noted by NHL Central Scouting in its pre-draft evaluations. Richards was described as "a tenacious forechecker who competes hard both at home and on the road and will not be intimidated." The book on Toews: "a highly competitive team player who is unselfish and will take a hit to make a play ... is a very consistent, hard working player who leads by example ... has outstanding leadership qualities."

Toews on Historic Streak:
Toews enters the Stanley Cup Final with an active 13-game point streak, recording 25 points (7 goals, 18 assists) in that span. Toews' streak is a franchise record for a single playoff year, surpassing the mark of Hall of Fame center Stan Mikita, who compiled an 11-game streak for Chicago in 1962. Toews' streak is the longest in the 2010 playoffs and the longest since Carolina's Eric Staal recorded a 15-game streak in 2006.
 
Dramatic Turnarounds
:
Both Stanley Cup Finalists have staged dramatic turnarounds over the past three years. In 2006-07, the Flyers finished with the NHL's worst record (22-48-12, 56 points), the Blackhawks were 26th (31-42-9, 71 points).

Roots of Flyers' Revival:
With the Flyers in the midst of their worst season in franchise history in 2006-07, GM Paul Holmgren started the franchise's revival by making a series of moves that brought key members of the current squad to Philadelphia:

* On Feb. 15, 2007, the Flyers traded Peter Forsberg to Nashville for Scottie Upshall, Ryan Parent, a 1st-round pick and 3rd-round pick.

* On Feb. 24, 2007, the Flyers obtained Braydon Coburn from Atlanta for Alexei Zhitnik.

* On June 18, 2007, the Flyers traded the 1st-round pick they had obtained in the Forsberg deal back to Nashville for Kimmo Timonen and Scott Hartnell.

Blackhawks' Revival:
At the heart of the Blackhawks' revival is the development of the club's draft picks over a six-year period from 2002 through 2007:

2002: Duncan Keith (54th), Adam Burish (282nd)
2003: Brent Seabrook (14th), Dustin Byfuglien (245th)
2004: Dave Bolland (32nd), Troy Brouwer (214th)
2005: Niklas Hjalmarsson (108th)
2006: Jonathan Toews (3rd)
2007: Patrick Kane (1st)

Legendary Ownership:
The Wirtz and Snider families have steered their respective NHL franchises for decades. Blackhawks chairman Rocky Wirtz was 2 years old when the family purchased the Blackhawks in 1954. He assumed control of the club on Oct. 5, 2007, following the passing of his father, William Wirtz, who served as president of the club for 41 years. Ed Snider brought NHL hockey to Philadelphia as founder of the Flyers, who debuted in 1967-68. He was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame as a Builder in 1988.

Pronger Equals Winning:
Leading a club to the Stanley Cup Final in his first year there? Nothing new to Chris Pronger. This is the third time he's done it in the past five years (Edmonton in 2006, Anaheim in 2007, Philadelphia in 2010).

Year    Playoff Scoring    Avg. Ice Time
2006    5-16--21 in 24 GP    30:57
2007    3-12--15 in 19 GP    30:11
2010    4-10--14 in 17 GP    28:48

He's Baaaack:
Marian Hossa will become the first player in League history to appear in the Stanley Cup Final for three consecutive seasons with different clubs: Pittsburgh (2008), Detroit (2009) and Chicago (2010). Hossa has dominated the Flyers in past playoffs, scoring 24 points in 16 games and posting a 3-0 series record (2-0 with Ottawa, 1-0 with Pittsburgh).

Quest For Silver:
Seven players have an opportunity to win an Olympic medal and Stanley Cup championship in the same season:

Chicago Blackhawks: Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook (gold, Canada), Patrick Kane (silver, USA).

Philadelphia Flyers: Chris Pronger and Mike Richards (gold, Canada), Kimmo Timonen (bronze, Finland).

Only three players have won an Olympic gold medal and a Stanley Cup ring in the same season: Ken Morrow (USA-New York Islanders in 1980), Steve Yzerman (Canada-Detroit Red Wings in 2002) and Brendan Shanahan (Canada-Detroit Red Wings in 2002).

Change For The Better:
Hired by the Flyers on Dec. 4, 2009, Peter Laviolette is the eighth NHL coach to advance to the Stanley Cup Final after joining his club during the season. The Flyers got off to a slow start under Laviolette, dropping an 8-2 home decision to Washington in his first game behind the bench and posting a 2-7-1 record in his first 10 games, but recovered for a 28-24-5 regular-season mark overall.

1932 Dick Irvin (TOR) took over for Art Duncan (defeated NYR in Final)
1959 Punch Imlach (TOR) took over for Billy Reay (lost to MTL in Final)
1968 Scotty Bowman (STL) took over for Lynn Patrick (lost to MTL in Final)
1971 Al MacNeil (MTL) took over for Claude Ruel (defeated CHI in Final)
1982 Roger Neilson (VAN) took over for Harry Neale (lost to NYI in Final)
2000 Larry Robinson (NJ) took over for Robbie Ftorek (defeated DAL in Final)
2009 Dan Bylsma (PIT) took over for Michel Therrien (defeated DET in Final).

Breakthrough for Coach Q:
Nobody has coached more games and won more in the Stanley Cup Playoffs without appearing in the Final than Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville, whose postseason record stands at 63-57 in 120 games. 'Coach Q' won a Stanley Cup ring in 1996 as an assistant coach with the Colorado Avalanche.

Rare Midseason Find in Goal:
Philadelphia's Michael Leighton is the fourth goaltender in the modern era to backstop his club to the Stanley Cup Final in a season that began in another organization. Patrick Roy went from Montreal to Colorado in 1995-96, Miikka Kiprusoff moved from San Jose to Calgary in 2003-04 and Dwayne Roloson was acquired by Edmonton from Minnesota in 2005-06. Unlike Roy, Kiprusoff and Roloson, who were acquired in trades, Leighton was a waiver claim -- obtained by the Flyers from Carolina on Dec. 15, 2009.

Long and Winding Road:
Leighton is well-traveled since signing his first pro contract with the Blackhawks on June 1, 2001. He has played a game with nine pro teams, four in the NHL (Chicago, Nashville, Philadelphia, Carolina) and five in the AHL (Norfolk, Rochester, Portland, Philadelphia, Albany). He has been under contract with seven NHL clubs (Chicago, Nashville, Philadelphia, Carolina, Buffalo, Montreal, Anaheim). He has been traded twice, claimed on waivers four times and loaded to an AHL affiliate 17 times.

Late Bloomer:
Blackhawks goaltender Antti Niemi signed his first Finnish Elite League contract in 2005 with Pelicans Lahti at age 23, having spent the previous three seasons in Mestis, the Finnish second-tier league. He signed with the Blackhawks as a free agent in May 2008 and made his North America debut in 2008-09, appearing in three NHL games and the rest with AHL Rockford. The Blackhawks re-signed him to a one-year deal over the summer. Niemi had a dream start to the 2009-10 regular season, posting a shutout in front of family, friends and 12,000 cheering fans in Helsinki in a 4-0 victory over Florida.

True Grit:
Proving the adage that the Stanley Cup is the toughest trophy to win in sports, several Blackhawks and Flyers have overcome injury in helping their team advance to the Final:

* Flyers forward Ian Laperriere missed 10 games after blocking a Paul Martin shot with his face in the clinching game of the first-round series against the New Jersey Devils. He suffered a brain contusion and cuts that required almost 70 stitches. Laperriere returned in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Final against Montreal.

* The Flyers lost high-scoring forwards Simon Gagne (toe) and Jeff Carter (foot) in the same game, a 4-1 win over New Jersey in Game 4 of their first-round series. Gagne returned after a four-game absence to the score the overtime goal that staved off elimination against the Boston Bruins in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Semifinal. Carter missed 10 games, returning in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Final against Montreal. He scored twice in the Flyers' 4-2 series-clinching win in Game 5.

* Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith lost seven teeth when struck by a puck during Game 4 of the Western Conference Final against San Jose. Keith returned to the game and finished with 29:02 in ice time, the most among all players, as the Blackhawks won the game 4-2 and the series 4-0.

Win One For Lappy:
Laperriere, who has played 1,144 NHL games over 16 seasons (1,083 regular-season, 61 playoff), will be making his first appearance in the Stanley Cup Final. The only active players who have played more games without winning a championship are Montreal's Roman Hamrlik (1,322 total games) and Minnesota's Owen Nolan (1,265).

Facing Elimination Early:
The Flyers faced an 'elimination game' before the Stanley Cup Playoffs even started, defeating the New York Rangers in a shootout on a Claude Giroux goal on the final day of the regular season with a playoff berth on the line. The last Finalist to have clinched a playoff berth in its final regular season game was the 1959 Toronto Maple Leafs, who leapfrogged past the Rangers on the final day of the season into the fourth and final playoff spot and then upset Boston to reach the Final. The Maple Leafs fell to the heavily-favored Canadiens in the Final.

Fan Favorites In Both Markets:
Seven players have appeared in at least 100 games for both the Blackhawks and Flyers, including Jeremy Roenick (524 regular-season games for the Blackhawks and 216 for the Flyers). The others are Murray Craven (157 Chicago, 523 Philadelphia), Doug Crossman (159 Chicago, 392 Philadelphia), Ben Eager (144 Chicago, 111 Philadelphia), Wayne Hillman (164 Chicago, 158 Philadelphia), Eric Weinrich (356 Chicago, 215 Philadelphia) and Behn Wilson (262 Chicago, 339 Philadelphia).

Coach Mike Keenan led both clubs to the Stanley Cup Final -- Chicago in 1992 and Philadelphia in 1985 and 1987.

I'll Show Ya:
The Blackhawks' Patrick Sharp was drafted by the Flyers in 2001 and spent three-plus seasons in the organization before his trade to Chicago in December 2005. The Flyers' Michael Leighton was drafted by the Blackhawks in 1999 and spent four seasons in the organization before being traded to Buffalo in October 2005.

Drawing On Experience
:
Three players on the Blackhawks have won the Stanley Cup, John Madden (New Jersey in 2000 and 2003), Andrew Ladd (Carolina in 2006) and Tomas Kopecky (Detroit in 2008). One player on the Flyers has a Stanley Cup ring (Chris Pronger, with Anaheim in 2007). Both head coaches also have won the Cup: the Flyers' Peter Laviolette as coach with Carolina in 2006 and the Blackhawks' Joel Quenneville as an assistant with Colorado in 1996.

Winter Classic Travel Provides Passport To the Final?
This marks the third consecutive year that the visiting club in the NHL Winter Classic on New Year's Day has advanced to the Stanley Cup Final five months later.

* In 2007-08, the Pittsburgh Penguins traveled to Ralph Wilson Stadium in Buffalo for the Jan. 1 Winter Classic and advanced to the Stanley Cup Final against Detroit.

* In 2008-09, the Detroit Red Wings met the Chicago Blackhawks at Wrigley Field in Chicago and went on to defeat the Penguins in the Stanley Cup Final.

* The Philadelphia Flyers began 2010 by taking on the Boston Bruins at Fenway Park in Boston.

Power Plays Beware:
One of the key moments in the Pittsburgh Penguins' triumph over the Detroit Red Wings in the 2009 Stanley Cup Final was Jordan Staal's shorthanded goal in Game 4 with the Penguins trailing the game and the series 2-1. Both the Blackhawks and Flyers are capable of producing such a series-changing moment:

* The Blackhawks notched a League-leading 13 shorthanded goals in the regular season and have added three more in the post-season. Their latest, a tally by Dave Bolland late in the second period at Vancouver in Game 6 of the Western Conference Semifinal, gave the Blackhawks a 3-0 lead en route to a series-clinching 5-1 win.

* Mike Richards' shorthanded goal in the first period of Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Final on an inspired solo effort lifted the Flyers to a 1-1 tie after the club had surrendered a goal to Montreal in the first minute of play. Richards has 23 career shorthanded goals, including a League-record three while two men short. He tallied shorthanded goals in three consecutive games in February 2009, becoming the first player in over a decade to accomplish the feat.

Different Paths to the NHL:
They made history by becoming the first U.S.-born players to be taken 1-2 in the NHL Entry Draft in 2007. The Blackhawks' Patrick Kane (Buffalo, N.Y.) and the Flyers' James van Riemsdyk (Middletown, N.J.) have taken different paths to the NHL:

* Kane made the jump from Canadian major junior hockey immediately to the NHL, winning the Calder Trophy as the League's top rookie in 2007-08.

* Van Riemsdyk spent two seasons at the University of New Hampshire, earning Hockey East All-Rookie honors in 2007-08 and a spot on the Second All-Star Team in 2008-09. He made his NHL debut in 2009-10.

Battle In Front:
One of the most anticipated individual matchups in the Stanley Cup is that between 6-foot-4, 257-pound Blackhawks forward Dustin Byfuglien and 6-6, 220-pound Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger in front of the Philadelphia net. Byfuglien has emerged as a scoring star in the 2010 postseason, leading the Blackhawks with 8 goals and topping all players with four game-winning goals. The Minnesota native has scored goals in five consecutive games and has notched all eight goals in his past eight contests, during which the Blackhawks are 7-1.

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