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Michael Taylor 25th May 2010 - 16:41

Prepare your brooms, Philly could be swept

The Philadelphia Flyers' return to the Stanley Cup never looked in doubt on Monday night as they ended the Montreal Canadiens brave fight, back on April 11 though things were quite the opposite.

With just 13 minutes remaining in the Flyers' season the dream of a first championship since 1975 was distant to say the least, and even when Matt Carle broke the New York Rangers' resistance few were tempted to invest on a deep playoff run.

They still had Washington, Pittsburgh and New Jersey to worry about not forgetting that in the final month of the regular season they couldn't even get past the likes of Minnesota or the Islanders.

But then that's exactly why we love the playoffs.

The mighty Capitals were dumped out by the Habs, as were the reigning champion Penguins and the Flyers did their bit by getting rid of New Jersey and the experienced Bruins, all to set-up a bizarre seven vs eight in the Eastern Conference final.

And from there it's history as Peter Laviolette's awesome penalty kill, alongside Montreal's weak offence meant the Phils head back to the Stanley Cup for the first time in 15 years.

The problem now though comes in the shape of the well oiled, impressive looking Chicago Blackhawks, themselves returning to the grandest stage in hockey after an 18 year hiatus.

Since day one Chicago have been backed and barring a slight wobble against Nashville in the first round they've lived up to all the hype.

Antti Niemi has been brilliant in the Blackhawks goal, Patrick Kane has given them massive production and young Center Jonathan Toews has been nothing short of unbelievable contributing 26 points - five more than anybody else during the playoffs.

The true marker that Joel Quenneville's side are the real deal came in the Western Conference finals though.

The San Jose Sharks, the perennial post-season underachievers, had finally removed that monkey from their back or at least that's what they believed before meeting Chicago.

From the first face off in game one there was only ever one team still likely to be in contention for Lord Stanley's Cup though as the Blackhawks categorically stopped everything the Sharks could throw at them.

The individual game results might not suggest the one-sidedness of the final but in truth the sweep was just deserts for a team that has seemingly been on the brink of something big for the past few seasons.

It now seems impossible to believe that Chicago can be beaten, especially by a not-so-strong number seven from a relatively weak Eastern Conference - the prices reflecting this; Chicago 4/11, Philadelphia 2/1.

For me the real question isn't who'll claim the first title of this decade, rather can Philadelphia actually take a game?

Chances are that if Michael Leighton can continue stopping every shot, deflection and power-play then they may sneak at least one of the games - I'm not so sure the back-up keeper will be anywhere near as effective again.

This is playoff hockey though and you'd be mad to think at least a few more shocks aren't lingering around the corner.

However, based on form, talent and what we've seen already a sweep is not out of the question. Although I fancy the Flyers can take either game three or four in the Wachovia Center meaning 4-1 Chicago (16/5) is where my money is going.



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