The Stanley Cup Final between the Philadelphia Flyers and the Chicago Blackhawks wasn't far-fetched if proposed in October.
In April? Preposterous.
None of the doubt had to do with the Blackhawks, either. They built on last season and took it to the next natural step. All of that is to their credit. They moved forward in as linear a fashion as possible.
Bolland is back and healthy, providing grit as a checker and some big goals as well. The blueline hasn't missed a beat, either, leaning on
Contrast the Flyers, though, and adversity takes on a whole new meaning.
I mean, they win in a shootout on the last day of the regular season to qualify for the playoffs, then later rally from a three-games-to-none deficit vs. Boston, and that included falling behind 3-0 in the first period of Game 7 before coming all the way back to win the game and advance to the conference final. Throw in a December coaching change even though the team started as anticipated with a 13-5-1 record, then add multiple major injuries and a goaltending stable full of dark horses and glue factory candidates and you have the Flyers' fortunes in a nutshell.
In total, there is no precedent for such improbability. The Flyers' journey is unparalleled, yet here they are in the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 1997.
Prior to the 2009-10 campaign, though, the Flyers looked to be a legitimate contender in the east, especially after adding veteran rearguard
Pronger, though, has delivered as expected, but so much more has happened to get the Flyers to the final. Along the way, they got healthy with the return of top scorers
And through it all, captain
So, while the roads traveled were vastly different, the destination was the same. The Flyers' took more twists and turns than any Hollywood writer could come up with, while the Blackhawks' quest seemed boring in its lack of the unexpected.
Now that both have arrived in the Stanley Cup Final, expect anything but boring. This match-up has the potential to be an attention-grabber from the opening puck drop in Game 1 on Saturday night.