In most any other city, the prospect of LeBron James landing in town would dominate the sports headlines and transfix the fan base like a mass alien invasion in a Hollywood blockbuster.
In Chicago, however, it is not a king they are looking to raise in their arms in jubilation, but a Lord—or, I suppose, the Cup of one—they hope to hoist.
And with a 2-1 Game Two Chicago Blackhawks’ victory Monday night, which gave the ‘Hawks a 2-0 Stanley Cup Finals lead over the underdog Philadelphia Flyers, that potential spectacle was inched closer toward reality.
With just two more wins, the entire Windy City can consider itself a witness—to the franchise’s first title since 1961, and fourth overall since the team’s inception in 1926.
Despite the 2-0 series lead, though, Chicagoans should be (and likely are) proceeding with only cautious optimism.
Why, you ask?
Two reasons. First, consider the opponent.
After dispatching the No. 2-seeded New Jersey Devils in the quarterfinals of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in a swift five games, the Flyers became the first team in 35 years to scrap their way all the way back from a 3-0 series deficit, ultimately besting the No. 6-seeded Boston Bruins in an improbable seven-game matchup.
Oh, but of course, not before they spotted the Bruins three goals in Game Seven.
So, excuse the Flyers if they aren’t impressed by the Blackhawks' two-game advantage—they still get to play host to Games Three and Four (on Wednesday and Friday) at the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia, where they are 7-1 in this year’s playoffs.
Secondly, it is Chicago we are talking about, and Chicago knows losing.
Sure, the White Sox got a title in 2005 (their first in 88 years), and the Bears snuck into a Super Bowl in 2007.
But, come on, we’re talking about the city of Bartman and the Billy Goat. Shoeless Joe and Erik Kramer.
And in particular, we’re talking about a Blackhawks' franchise that has already held, and lost, a 2-0 lead before—namely, in 1971 versus the eventual-champion Montreal Canadiens.
Plus, let’s be honest, anytime you’ve gone almost five decades without hanging a championship banner like this franchise has, it is expected that fans should demonstrate some modicum of apprehension.
Nevertheless, Blackhawks-backers sit ready for their royal entity to arrive (the metal one). For although Philly has lost only once at home in these playoffs, Chicago boasts a 7-1 road record of their own.
Perhaps more inspiring to Chicago fans is the simple fact that their squad has been, and still is, the better team, top to bottom.
Yes, the Flyers have outshot the Blackhawks through two games, but recall that the Blackhawks, who boasted the league’s third-best offensive attack this year, won 11 more games than the Flyers—not to mention six straight playoff games—for a reason.
Michael Leighton may be hot in this playoff (Game One notwithstanding), but Antti Niemi has been solid all along—and especially when the team has needed him most.
Oddly enough, this Chicago team appears to have the knack for finding ways to win, instead of the other way around.
Most importantly, though, Chi-town hockey lovers should rest comfortably knowing all they need is two out of five to end the city’s second-most depressing championship drought—just keep Steve Bartman away.
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