Wednesday, May 26, 2010
By Brett Ballantini
CHICAGO Everyone and his brother may not be picking the Blackhawks to win the 2010 Stanley Cup over the Philadelphia Flyers, but even the contrarians will acknowledge the series stacks up favoring Chicago.
Just dont go trying to sell that suit of clothes to the Redshirts themselves.
Honestly, it feels like just another seriesthats the way we have to approach it, Blackhawks forward Adam Burish said. Its two kind of cocky teams playing each other. The media tells us were favorites, but we dont care.
Teammate Brian Campbell also shifted the focus on favorites to the fellas asking the questions: We dont feel like were favoritesthats for you media to talk about. Weve just played them one time.
And by way of deflating Chicago as favorites, that one game this season is a smart tact to take. Hosting the Hawks last March 13, Philadelphia played its best game of the season to that point, keeping pace with every high-flying Chicago stride. The game went from bad to tragic when first Scott Hartnell tied the game with just 2:04 remaining, and then Chris Pronger snuck backdoor and took a sweet cross-ice feed from Claude Giroux for the buzzer-beater.
That was our most frustrating loss, all year long, Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said, the memory of the lost points still singing his stache a touch. It was a tough pill to swallow.
But the loss may have been a cautionary tale for Chicago. It in fact foreshadowed a couple weeks worth of true floundering by the Blackhawks, enduring their worst stretch of the season late in March, as the playoffs loomed.
We did snap out of it, Blackhawks alternacap John Madden said. It was tough to weather. I, for oneand I think everybody else in the Blackhawks dressing room as wellwas tired of learning lessons. The season was starting to drag. We might have been guilty of looking too far ahead and not taking care of the business in front of us.
That March game was uncharacteristic in that there were more than twice as many shots (75) as hits (34), which touches on a couple of things. First of all, theres no way the Flyers can get lured into playing such a style vs. Chicago in the Stanley Cup, particularly not in a feeling-out Game 1. Second, if Philadelphia does hope to run with the high-flying Hawks, its going to be a short series.
That said, theres little that will convince the Blackhawks they are the team to beat for title.
Were not favorites, not in our terms, Chicago forward Troy Brouwer said. Theyre obviously a good team that knows what its like to be desperate, to play hard every night. We havent has as much exposure to that.
Indicative of how grounded the Blackhawks are is that even the most confident of the Redshirts, forward Kris Versteeg, who scored Chicagos first goal in the 3-2 loss at Wachovia Center a couple of months ago, wouldnt bite the favorites bait.
Thats a compliment that people are giving you, to call you the favorites, Steeger said. But it doesnt mean much to us. The league is so close, theres so much parity. Perhaps the very worst of the teams in the East arent very good, but otherwise the top eight in both conferences are all strong teams. You dont make it this far without being a favorite.
Besides, the colorful Burish has figured out one way that Philadelphia has the edge over his Blackhawks.
They have a cooler story than we do, he said. They got into the playoffs on a shootout. Even we cant match that.
Brett Ballantini is CSNChicago.com's Blackhawks Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnik on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Hawks information.