ED BARKOWITZ

While Chicago is the logical pick, tell me what part of the Flyers' postseason has been logical.

Philadelphia not only sneaked into the playoffs on the final day, it somehow managed to grab the No. 7 seed. This enabled the Flyers to skip Washington in the first round and Pittsburgh in the second.

The Flyers also had the unprecedented good fortune to host the conference finals as the seventh seed.

Their good luck continued with Chicago coming out of the West. San Jose would have been a more problematic opponent.

The Blackhawks undoubtedly will be the most talented team the Flyers have faced. But the Flyers will be the deepest and grittiest team Chicago has seen.

If it comes down to coaching adjustments, Peter Laviolette has the edge.

Win this thing, and they'll limp together forever.

Flyers in 6

SAM DONNELLON

I've gone back and forth, but home ice, youth and speed all seem to be ganging up on Cinderella.

It could not have played out better for the Flyers up to this point.

In Pittsburgh and Washington, they dodged two teams with skill and speed much like Chicago's - two teams that gave them fits over the season.

The three teams they beat to get here were all limited offensively. Chicago is not.

So the heart says parade in six. But the head isn't cooperating.

Blackhawks in 7

RICH HOFMANN

This is going to be a series decided by secondary scoring. Chris Pronger and Mike Richards' line are going to smother Jonathan Toews' line, and Duncan Keith and Toews are going to do the same to Richards' line. It is going to be a magnificent death struggle.

But that leaves the rest. Both teams have scoring on every line. Danny Briere-Ville Leino-Scott Hartnell have been a little quiet lately, though. That puts a ton of heat on Claude Giroux.

I don't know. I have gone back and forth on this. Either goalie could crack; either could be great; I just don't know. And here's my biggest problem: I have been so impressed by the heart the Flyers have displayed that it has affected my thinking - and anybody who has lived these last 6 weeks understands. I'm pretty sure it's clouding my judgment. Vegas is shouting at me that it's clouding my judgment.

Belatedly, unsure, I'm listening.

Blackhawks in 7

MARCUS HAYES

Youth is wasted on the young in few arenas more than in sport.

Whenever older athletes speak of their lives' greater regrets, chief among them, always, is their lack of urgency when they went deep in the playoffs as younger men.

So it is with Kimmo Timonen and Simon Gagne. So it seems, oddly, with brooding fifth-year players Mike Richards and Jeff Carter. So it should be with goalie Michael Leighton, the most fortunate and most traveled and most desperate man in orange.

The Flyers beat a disorganized Devils team and a disintegrated Bruins assemblage (and an overmatched Canadiens club). In the first two rounds, the Flyers played at a talent deficit; that, again, is the case.

They might not have the guns, like Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, but they have balance and system and composure - all of which will make this Hawks group look back at their first trip to the finals with regret.

Flyers in 6

FRANK SERAVALLI

Logic says to pick the Chicago Blackhawks in the Stanley Cup finals. Logic - and Las Vegas - says that at some point, the seventh seed has to fall to the second seed. Logic says that the speedy team in the stronger, Western Conference with some of the best young talent in the league has to win out.

Nothing about the Flyers and these playoffs has been logical.

I could not have scripted or even imagined the first three rounds of these playoffs to play out as they have. But here we are.

This Flyers team has been hard to predict all season. They have been up and down more than an elevator in the Willis (nee Sears) Tower. They had all of the talent to succeed but could never put it together. Until now.

This team has come together - and now they have a chance to come full circle.

Mike Richards refrained from using the word "destiny" to describe the path that this Flyers team is on, given the circumstances and obstacles they have overcome to get to this point.

Destiny, maybe, helped the Flyers avoid Pittsburgh and Washington in the East. Now, they have a formidable foe in Chicago.

But for the first time this playoffs, the Blackhawks have run into a team that will punch them in the mouth. With all due respect to the finesse teams in Nashville, Vancouver and San Jose, the Flyers will come at the Blackhawks from the drop of the puck.

For the first time in these playoffs, the Flyers have a goaltending matchup that is not daunting. And with the way Michael Leighton has performed, the impossible doesn't seem all that impossible.

All else is equal - or close. The Flyers' forwards have 48 goals in 17 games, Chicago has 48 in 16. Chicago's defensemen have five goals in 16 games, the Flyers have six in 17. Michael Leighton's save percentage is .948, Antti Niemi's is .921.

I've picked the Flyers in six games in each of the first three rounds. This will be their stiffest test yet, but I'm not changing now.

Flyers in 6

JOHN SMALLWOOD

Based on the regular season, Chicago is the better team.

The Blackhawks were second in the Western Conference, where seven of the eight playoff teams had 100-point seasons. The Flyers had 88 points and backed into the playoffs on the last shot of the season.

But the playoffs are the second season, and, all along, it has been said that this Flyers team was built to succeed in the playoffs. The results are hard to argue with. The Flyers are playing as well as the Blackhawks when it counts.

With Jeff Carter back in the lineup, the Flyers have the offense to match Chicago, which is led by youngsters Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews. Mike Richards is showing how a captain should lead. With Chris Pronger, Matt Carle and Braydon Coburn, the Flyers' defense has been strong in front of goalie Michael Leighton. If Leighton keeps playing the way he has (1.45 goals-against average and .948 save percentage), the Flyers win. Hello, Broad Street.

Flyers in 6