The Flyers never had a chance.
This final obstacle was less of a hurdle and more of a speed bump, the last chapter in a season that had been approaching this inevitable conclusion since the team arrived for training camp in September. That Blackhawks team was too confident, too talented and too good for an inferior club like the Flyers to prevent the halting of a 49-year drought between Stanley Cup victories.
It stared with the fifth game of the season, an absurd comeback from a 5-0 deficit against the Flames on Oct. 12. It continued with a 4-1-1 “Circus Trip” in November, punctuated by a 7-2 shellacking of the Sharks in Marian Hossa’s Blackhawks debut Nov. 25 in San Jose. Chicago tore through the regular season, with the only significant blip on the radar happening at the Winter Classic — a wrong that’s since been righted.
Not much changed in the playoffs, either. Hossa’s overtime goal in Game 5 against the Predators in the first round ended what may have been the most nerve-wracking moment of the Blackhawks entire postseason run. The next round was another triumph over the Canucks, the Blackhawks second straight postseason win over bitter rivals. The Sharks presented a strong challenge on paper, but were swatted aside after just four games.
And who did Chicago face in the final round? A team backstopped by a pair of goaltenders who’d been part of some of the worst seasons in Blackhawks’ franchise history.
Michael Leighton was a sixth-round pick (165th overall) of the Blackhawks in the 1999 NHL Draft and played 34 games during the ‘03-04 season, one of six goalies the Blackhawks used during that miserable campaign. He was later traded to the Sabres for a player — Milan Bartovic — who would play a whopping 24 games with the Blackhawks before spending the rest of his career in Europe. Brian Boucher played 15 games for Chicago during the ‘06-07 season before being placed on waivers by a team that finished with 71 freaking points in an 82-game season, bad enough to win the draft lottery and select Patrick Kane first overall that summer.
It took about 35 minutes of game time for the Blackhawks to turn Leighton’s magical postseason run into dust, chasing him from Game 1 with five goals before the second period had ended. A talented Philadelphia roster that included Daniel Briere and Scott Hartnell and Chris Pronger, among others, was able to even the series at two apiece after four games before Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville split up Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane in the lineup, giving Chicago a multi-faceted attack the Flyers couldn’t corral, as revealed by its seven-goal outburst in Game 5.
If it wasn’t Game 6 in Philadelphia, it would’ve been Game 7 in Chicago. The 2010 Stanley Cup Final was an inevitable coronation for these Blackhawks, a confirmation they’d completed the journey from hockey anonymity to the top of that sport’s world, all in a five-year span.