CHICAGO - There is the highly anticipated physical matchup - a.k.a. the Big Bang Theory - between the Chicago Blackhawks' 6-foot-4, 257-pound winger, Dustin Byfuglien, and the Flyers' 6-6, 220-pound defenseman, Chris Pronger.

There is the meeting of star centers - the Flyers' Mike Richards and the Blackhawks' Jonathan Toews - captains who were line mates when they helped Team Canada win Olympic gold.

There is Flyers goalie Michael Leighton, who said he was "ditched" by Chicago, facing his former team, and Blackhawks right winger Patrick Sharp opposing the team that said au revoir to him.

All are great story lines, but, truth be told, the Stanley Cup Finals - which start Saturday night in suddenly hockey-crazed Chicago - probably will be decided by a much less-sexy topic.

Special teams.

"That's the best power play we'll see" in the playoffs, Flyers right winger Ian Laperriere said of the Hawks. "Their second power play [unit] could be a first power play [unit] on any other team. It's going to be a challenge for us. We're going to have to be smart."

The Flyers' penalty kill played a major role in their victory over Montreal in the Eastern Conference finals; the Flyers killed 21 of 22 penalties - and Richards' highlight-film shorthanded goal ignited the victory in Game 5.

In the playoffs, the Flyers' and Blackhawks' special teams have been almost even. The Flyers have successfully killed 87 percent of their penalties and converted 20.7 percent of their power plays, while Chicago has killed 86.6 percent of its penalties and has been successful on 22.6 percent of its power plays.

Asked why the Hawks' power play has been so effective, Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger mentioned their confidence and their having "a lot of different options. They can work it high. They can work it low. They work it high to low and take it to the net."

Patrick Kane likes to work the half-wall and feed Toews (NHL-high 13 power-play points in the playoffs) near the corner goal line, and the Flyers will have to be alert for Toews whirling around and trying to stuff the puck past goalie Michael Leighton.

Kane is also a dangerous power-play shooter - or when he makes a cross-ice feed to set up Patrick Sharp at the point.

"And you've got Sharp backdoor, kind of roaming around over there, looking for seams in loose areas," Pronger said. "And, obviously, Duncan [Keith] up top has a great shot. We need to do a good job of getting in shooting lanes and blocking shots, because he seems to find a way to get it through."

Up front, Richards and Claude Giroux, along with Darroll Powe and Blair Betts, have been superb penalty killers. Laperriere also has worked his way back onto the penalty kill after being sidelined for a month with a head injury. But Powe has been getting the majority of the PK minutes with Betts because of his strong play.

"Guys are working hard and sacrificing their body to block shots," Powe said. "We have to keep guys away from the net and eliminate second chances."

Working with Betts, Powe said, "is easy because . . . he's got the experience, and if you ever do make a mistake, he seems to be there to back you up and help you out. That and winning face-offs, which he has done. It makes a big difference when you can clear the puck right away."

Betts said Powe was "built" for the penalty kill because he is a good skater who is willing to block shots. "Ian and I were killing penalties, and we kind of had a chemistry because we've been together pretty much the whole year," Betts said, "but . . . "

The unit hasn't skipped a beat with Powe.

Like Chicago, the Flyers also have done a solid job on the power play during the playoffs. Richards and Danny Briere are among the NHL's power-play leaders with 10 and seven points, respectively. Simon Gagne is tied for third in the NHL with four power-play goals in the postseason, and Ville Leino and Kimmo Timonen are among the leaders with five power-play assists.

The Flyers' power play got even stronger recently with the return of Jeff Carter from a broken ankle.

Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said special teams "very well could" decide the series. "They've been very important for us all year. You look around this year's playoffs, on a lot of nights, it is the differential," he said. "I know we're playing a team that's got good special teams. They've got some defensemen that excel in both areas."

Both teams said they want to play with a disciplined edge and stay out of the penalty box.

Toews-Marian Hossa and John Madden-Dave Bolland are Chicago's penalty-killing duos up front. Bolland is arguably the team's best penalty killer.

"He's got real good anticipation of the game, and he's done a real good job in probably slowing down two of the top centers in our game in the last two rounds," said Quenneville, referring to Vancouver's Henrik Sundin and San Jose's Joe Thornton.

Contact staff writer Sam Carchidi at 215-854-5181 or scarchidi@phillynews.com. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/BroadStBull.