CHICAGO - Given that he will be analyzing the series for NBC, Jeremy Roenick was obviously interested in the Stanley Cup Finals. But his lineage with both the Flyers and Blackhawks means he will be watching not only with his head but also with his heart.
"I win either way, but this is like a dream matchup for me," Roenick said. "I win, no matter who wins. I just want to see a great series and something that is great for hockey."
Roenick played with the Flyers from 2001 to 2004. He scored 19 goals and had 28 assists for the Flyers team that lost in seven games in the Eastern Conference finals to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning.
"We found a way to battle through some adversity that a lot of people didn't think we would," Roenick said of that run. "So that was one of my better times."
Roenick played with Simon Gagne and Patrick Sharp in 2003-04, and they are both likely to be major factors in this series.
"He has been huge in these playoffs," Roenick said of Gagne, who has seven goals and three assists in the postseason. "He has had some injuries to prevent him from becoming a superstar, but he has tremendous skill, and he has a great shot. He has developed into a great player. That is what was expected."
Sharp was still getting adjusted to the NHL in 2003-04 and, according to Roenick, he has exceeded expectations. Sharp has 16 points in the playoffs and is one of Chicago's main offensive weapons.
"Philly got him, and they thought he was going to be a good player," Roenick said. "He turned out to be a great player. Philly didn't give him a chance to develop the way he needed to develop."
Sharp's hockey acumen impress Roenick.
"He is not the fastest or strongest guy, but he makes up for that with his skill and his brains," he said.
Overall, Roenick is predicting a physical series. For the Flyers to win, they will have to get a lot of production out of Scott Hartnell, James van Riemsdyk, and Claude Giroux.
"Guys like this can be very, very effective," Roenick said.
Roenick played in Chicago from 1988 to 1996 and was a member of the last Blackhawks team to go to the Stanley Cup Finals, in 1992. Like many others around the NHL, he has been dazzled by the play of rookie goalie Antti Niemi. During the season he had expressed some concern about the Blackhawks' goaltending situation.
"I've always been fearful of the goaltenders I didn't know," Roenick said. "He's been fantastic, and so has [Michael] Leighton."
Flyers fans who loved Roenick when he played for them may be disappointed to learn that he expects the Blackhawks' title drought, extending back to 1961, to come to an end in six or seven games.
"You have to look at the ranks," he said, referring to the playoff seedings. "Chicago is No. 2 [in the West]. Philly is No. 7 [in the East], and they got there in the last game in the shoot-out. All the [indicators] lean to Chicago. I don't how you can think Chicago isn't going to win.
"But the Flyers have done the improbable by getting here. You can't count them out."