It is the question everyone from the hard-core fan to the suddenly smitten is asking: Do the playoff-crashing Flyers really have a chance against the young, fast and talented Chicago Blackhawks?

The answer is as clear as the names etched on the side of the Stanley Cup.

Of course they do.

Take a look around at the smoking wreckage of the first three rounds of playoffs. There's the ruins of Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals, winners of the Presidents Trophy for most points in the regular season. And that heap of ash is Sidney Crosby and the rest of the defending champion Pittsburgh Penguins.

The best team in the West, San Jose? Toast. The top goalies, Martin Brodeur and Roberto Luongo? Scorched. Pedigreed coaches like Mike Babcock and Jacques Lemaire? Fried.

In the Year of the Blue Ice, when all the certainties are flipped upside-down and shaken hard, the Flyers most assuredly have a chance to win this thing. They are underdogs, yes, but isn't that the thing to be in 2010?

A Chicago victory would restore order, while the Flyers are intent on continuing to create chaos everywhere they go. It is worth noting that their route to the Cup featured four of the NHL's original six franchises. They took out the New York Rangers in that final-game shoot-out, came back from 0-3 against the Boston Bruins, and then brushed off the giant-killing Montreal Canadiens.

That leaves the Blackhawks, who were the Black Hawks until, it is rumored, cheapskate owner Bill Wirtz sold the space to the highest bidder.

The current edition of the Hawks is a carefully built, well-balanced team on a steady progression to this moment. No team is better qualified to upset them than these Flyers, with their ragged band of limping stars and misfit toys.

From their head coach and goaltender to their No. 6 defenseman, the Flyers are littered, literally, with the wretched refuse of the rest of the NHL - and they wouldn't be here without any of them.

Coach Peter Laviolette was starring in his own episode of Lost, living on an island apparently unreachable from hockey civilization.

Fired a month into the 2008-09 season by the Carolina Hurricanes, Laviolette sat idle while 10 NHL teams changed head coaches. Two of those teams, the New Jersey Devils and Montreal Canadiens, had special occasion to regret passing on Laviolette during this improbable playoff season.

"I was out of work for a year," Laviolette said. "I was down in Florida, living on an island. I'm extremely fortunate to be working."

Michael Leighton was all too familiar with the process when the Hurricanes came to their backup goaltender last December and told him he was being sent down to the minors - if he cleared waivers, of course. Considering that a third of the league had employed Leighton during his luckless career, that seemed almost certain.

Instead, the goalie-starved Flyers scooped him up. Leighton has already gotten revenge on one of the teams that passed him over, shutting Montreal out three times in five games. Next he takes on the team that drafted him and gave up on him first.

"I think any time you play for a team and they pick somebody else over you, you can look and say, 'It was my own fault,' " Leighton said. "But you're always a little bit mad you didn't get a chance or they just ditched you. You do have a little bit of extra you want to prove."

Forward Ville Leino and defenseman Lukas Krajicek were highly regarded prospects. Leino was part of Detroit's long-term plan to remain a contender under the limitations of a salary cap. Krajicek was Florida's first-round draft pick in 2001.

This year, both became expendable. Both were sent to the Flyers in minor moves that were barely noticed by fans. Now Leino is an integral part of Danny Briere's line along with Scott Hartnell, scoring four goals and assisting eight more. Krajicek is the sixth defenseman, playing regular shifts during the rare times Chris Pronger isn't on the ice.

Unwanted, unrespected, unemployed. Circumstance or fate made all four of these men available at the moment the Flyers needed them. And all four, especially the steely-gazed coach and amiable goalie, have played important parts in getting the Flyers to the Stanley Cup Finals.

There's no chance they would be here without Laviolette. His predecessor, John Stevens, is a perfectly good hockey coach, but the results are undeniable. Laviolette was the right voice, the right approach, at the right time to bring this shambling team together.

"My expectation when I take over the team is to win the Stanley Cup," Laviolette said.

Seven months later, he and his impossible team may do just that.

"If we win," Leighton said, "it's going to be quite a story."

It already is.

Contact columnist Phil Sheridan at 215-854-2844 or psheridan@phillynews.com. Read his recent work at http://go.philly.com/philsheridan.