PHILADELPHIA -- One win, and 49 years of hockey heartbreak are erased.
One win, and the Chicago Blackhawks will capture their first Stanley Cup since 1961.
One win, and Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and the rest of the 2009-10 Blackhawks can join Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita in the history books.
Just one win in the next two games. The first shot at immortality arrives on Wednesday night at Wachovia Center, in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final. Lord Stanley's iconic piece of silver craftsmanship will be in the building.
Don't think Toews and the rest of the young Blackhawks have anything else on their mind.
"We knew coming into the Final it was a long week before Game 1," Toews said about his team's four-day break between winning the Western Conference Final and starting this best-of-seven journey against the Philadelphia Flyers. "It's exciting every single day. The more time you spend away from the rink, the easier it is to think about how close you are to winning the Cup. Just by that win (Sunday), we knew it was just one step closer. We want to take that last and final step. That's all we need to focus on."
Blackhawks vs. Flyers Series Page
Toews is all of 22 years old. The wonder of his persona is that he often acts like a man beyond his years, yet he lets the kid inside come out at the proper time. In the buildup to Game 6, with the Blackhawks leading the Flyers three games to two, no one would buy into Toews acting the role of grizzled, even-tempered veteran. When he is asked about being one win away from the Blackhawks winning the Stanley Cup, he shows the emotion that makes a very good hockey player a great one.
"Any kid growing up in Canada, anywhere as a hockey player, that's the dream," said Toews, very much the pride of Winnipeg these days and a member of the gold-winning Canadian Olympic team in February. "That's the one thing you keep telling yourself -- in your heart you kind of know you're going to do it some day.
"Last year, watching the Pittsburgh Penguins come from behind and win, that's when it really first set in that I felt our team and myself personally ... I never felt closer thinking that this is an opportunity, this is something that can really become a reality. It's been a long year, but I think we all knew all along that we can make it this far. Hopefully we can find a way to do it (Wednesday)."
This Chicago Blackhawks squad is something else. Toews, the captain, was drafted third overall all the way back in 2006. Kane, the leading scorer, was drafted first overall three years ago. The flashy Kane is 21 and -- bless his young-at-heart demeanor -- he acts like it. Before the series, he 5-foot-9 Kane joked about going into a scrum with Chris Pronger and showing the 6-foot-6 defenseman "what's up." For completely different reasons, Toews and Kane are a privilege and a hoot to be around. Chicago's hockey fans are very fortunate to have them for a generation.
That's the amazing thing about this Stanley Cup vision before them. With Kane and Toews so young and signed long-term, with Norris finalist (and possible Conn Smythe winner) Duncan Keith just 26 and contractually-bound to Madison St. for the next 12 years, there's no reason to think the Blackhawks won't have plenty of more opportunities to win the Stanley Cup. Heck, if they don't seal the deal this week, there's always the 50th anniversary of the triumph of Hull and Mikita, Bill Hay and Pierre Pilote and Glenn Hall.
But this year's model of the Blackhawks doesn't see it that way, or at least refuses to see it that way. They know the Dan Marino lesson in the NFL. They're well aware it took 20 years and a trade for Ray Bourque to win his one and only ring. They may not have a frustrated veteran on their own team to learn from -- John Madden and his pair of rings from New Jersey, he's no role model -- but they can look to the Flyers' side and see Ian Laperriere, bruised brain, busted face, damaged hand and all, looking like he'd do anything after more than 1,100 NHL games to finally win a Stanley Cup.
The Blackhawks also know that, while their young core will be around, some of their invaluable next-level teammates may not be as soon as two weeks after a possible parade. Salary cap issues could result in the departure of key players like Patrick Sharp and Kris Versteeg. Role players like Madden and Burish may be impossible to re-sign. A year ago, the Blackhawks were just happy to be in the Western Conference Final against Detroit after a long playoff famine. Now they are win away from the Stanley Cup and determined to finish the job, fearful of what the road will bring.
"It's been flashing in my head since Game 1 of the playoffs," said Toews of his personal quest for the Cup. "Every time you win one game, it feels like you're going all the way. When you lose a game it feels like your season is going to be over. It's just been such a crazy ride.
"You can't plan on something like this happening so quickly. Since the day (Kane and I) both came in as rookies, so much has gone well for us. You definitely don't expect to be playing for a Stanley Cup in your third season as a pro. So we've been very lucky from day one. We're just enjoying the moment whatever happens."
That last part is easy to say when you're up 3-2. The Blackhawks cannot let this Stanley Cup opportunity slip away, and Toews and his teammates know it.
One win. Forty-nine years. History on the line.