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updated: 6/23/2013 6:09 PM

Title quests have evolved into tournaments of attrition

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  • Boston Bruins right wing Jaromir Jagr shows the frustration and fatigue of a long, hard-fought Stanley Cup Final in Game 5 Saturday night at United Center.

    Boston Bruins right wing Jaromir Jagr shows the frustration and fatigue of a long, hard-fought Stanley Cup Final in Game 5 Saturday night at United Center.
    Associated Press


It isn't surprising that the health status of Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews and Bruins center Patrice Bergeron is uncertain.

Every season in every sport seems to be decided by a last-man-standing proposition.

Maybe it's because hockey and football are so violent that injuries are inevitable. Maybe it's because too many bodies in baseball and basketball are wound so tight that they're bound to snap. Maybe it's because medical staffs scrutinize players' health more vigilantly than ever before.

The Hawks and Bruins are preparing for tonight's Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final in the TD Garden at Boston. If Boston wins and enough players remain available, Game 7 will be back in the United Center on Wednesday night.

Sports championships increasingly have come down to postseason tournaments of attrition.

Functional health has become as elusive as Edward Snowden.

Catch it if you can.

Radar on Sunday morning network news shows tried to locate Snowden, who revealed state secrets, like they do Santa Claus on Christmas Eve. Or more relevantly, like Chicago newshounds tried to locate where Derrick Rose's head was throughout the NBA season.

Meanwhile, the international hockey community was trying to figure out where Toews' announced "upper body" aches and Bergeron's announced "the body" pains were situated.

Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said of Toews, "We're optimistic."

Bruins coach Claude Julien said of Bergeron, "He's day to day."

NHL injury details are as classified as the information Snowden spread on his way out of the good graces of the United States government.

If Toews and Bergeron can't play tonight, or if one can't and the other can, or if either team runs out of gauze ... well, that might be enough to determine the series winner.

Injuries always have been a factor, but can anyone remember when medical charts influenced the outcome of title chases more than in the past year -- from baseball to football to basketball to hockey?

The Washington Nationals had an outstanding opportunity to win a World Series until pitching ace Stephen Strasburg was shut down to protect him from reinjuring his surgically repaired arm.

The Washington Redskins and Minnesota Vikings' chances were sabotaged in the NFL playoffs by injuries to their quarterbacks.

The NBA, presumably the kinder and gentler sport designed to be non-contact, had players dropping by the dribble this postseason.

Rose never played a game for the Bulls. The likes of Kobe Bryant, Russell Westbrook and Rajon Rondo were disabled. Dwyane Wade and Manu Ginobili advanced to the NBA Finals while perpetually being minute to minute.

A case could be made that the Miami Heat repeated as champion last week essentially because LeBron James' body is indestructible.

The NHL playoffs are no different from other sports and perhaps more predictably at the forefront of the injury predicament, considering the game's entertainingly barbaric nature.

Hopefully, Toews and Bergeron will be cleared to play tonight. Championships should be decided with the best players playing, right?

"Both great players," Hawks winger Patrick Sharp said Sunday. "I think any coach in the league, any player in the league would like to have those guys on their team."

The world of sports doesn't need another championship decided by which team can field a full complement of players.

Heck, if the Stanley Cup Final was best-of-nine instead of best-of-seven, the Hawks and Bruins might have to play 4-on-4 the entire last game.

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