Refs will dictate final: Cherry

The rough and tumble Philadelphia Flyers will make life miserable for the speedy, skilled and favoured Chicago Blackhawks in the Stanley Cup final — provided the referees let them.

The Philadelphia Flyers will try to beat the Chicago Blackhawks through their physical play.

The Philadelphia Flyers will try to beat the Chicago Blackhawks through their physical play.

The rough and tumble Philadelphia Flyers will make life miserable for the speedy, skilled and favoured Chicago Blackhawks in the Stanley Cup final — provided the referees let them.

That’s Don Cherry’s take on the matchup for NHL supremacy, which begins Saturday in the Windy City featuring two teams that play contrasting styles of hockey.

The Flyers, led by tenacious captain Mike Richards, are a physically imposing group that often straddles the line between clean and dirty in using its size to contain, wear down and punish opponents.

The Blackhawks, on the other hand, are led by the dynamic duo of Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane and use their off-the-charts quickness and talent to skate around their rivals and pick them apart.

Whether brawn can negate finesse in the best-of-seven series may depend on the stripes.

“I think it’s going to be how the refereeing is going to be,” Cherry, the CBC’s famed Hockey Night in Canada commentator, said during a conference call Thursday.

“If they start calling penalties like they did against San Jose (during the Western Conference final versus Chicago), it’s really going to be tough on Philadelphia, I’ll tell you that. I’m not saying letting it go, but if they let them play hockey, it’s in Philadelphia’s favour because let’s face it, they are a lot tougher.”

That toughness is why Cherry firmly believes the final will go a lot longer than many oddmakers predict it will. The Blackhawks were impressive in series wins against Nashville, Vancouver and San Jose en route to the final, but none are as physical as the Flyers.

“They’ve never met anyone in the playoffs so far that plays like Philly, not that they’re afraid or anything like that, but Richards takes no prisoners, they’ve never played a guy that hits like that, and (the Flyers) are a mean club,” said Cherry.