Stanley Cup Final Game 1

The puck - and the betting - finally drops on the Stanley Cup final on Saturday night. Will the Cup make its long-awaited return to Philadelphia, or Chicago?

With Game 1 on tap, the Blackhawks start the series as the favorite to claim the Cup at -260. The Flyers are the series underdogs at +200. There are also very similar odds for the opening game of the series, with the Hawks listed as a -200 home favorite at Bovada and the Flyers down as a +165 road ‘dog.

It's been 49 years since the Windy City has celebrated a Stanley Cup win. Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita were on the Hawks the last time they won it all in 1961.

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After putting up with some pretty bad teams over the years Chicago's back in the final for the first time since 1992 thanks to an overload of young talent led by Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. Philadelphia has also been dealing with a lengthy Cup drought, as Lord Stanley's mug hasn't resided in the City of Brotherly Love since the days of the Broad Street Bullies in 1975.

Philly last made the final in 1997, but got swept four straight by Detroit. The Flyers have ridden some stellar goaltending from Michael Leighton and well-timed scoring from the likes of Mike Richards and Danny Briere to another shot at a title. The Blackhawks may be heavily favored to win the series, but the teams are more evenly matched than the odds would tell you.

Both have a solid and deep lineup of forwards with Chicago rolling out Toews, Kane, Marian Hossa, Patrick Sharp, Dustin Byfuglien, and Dave Bolland, while the Flyers’ depth up front includes Richards, Briere, Jeff Carter, Claude Giroux, Simon Gagne, and Scott Hartnell.

Chicago's speed and firepower are unlike anything the Flyers have faced so far during their postseason run, and they'll need their strong forecheck and gritty play to be near perfect to avoid getting burned by Chicago's offensive ability.

Both sides also get contributions from the blue line. The Hawks arguably have one of the top defensive corps in the league at both ends led by Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Brian Campbell, and Brent Sopel. The Flyers are no slouches on the blue line with minutes-machine Chris Pronger headlining a group that also includes Kimmo Timonen, Matt Carle, and Braydon Coburn.

Keith and Seabrook should continue to be a big part of the Chicago power play, while Pronger will need to lock down the Blackhawks’ big forwards while also staying out of the penalty box. The Flyers and Blackhawks also match up well in goal with netminders that have never been this far before, but that have held up well so far under the playoff pressure.

Antti Niemi has started every game for Chicago in the postseason and posted a solid 2.33 GAA and .921 save percentage. Leighton has been a life saver for the Flyers, stepping in for the injured Brian Boucher. In seven games Leighton has an amazing 1.45 GAA and.948 save percentage to go along with three shutouts.

Will Leighton continue to have as much success against the Blackhawks’ more potent attack and with Byfuglien crashing the crease?

Game 1 goes Saturday at 8pm ET on NBC in the US and CBC in Canada. Game 2 follows on Monday, while the series heads to Philadelphia for Games 3 and 4 starting on Wednesday.

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