2010 Stanley Cup Final Preview – Between the Pipes
Well that was fast, a sweep and a five game series in the conference finals. Of course last year it was a sweep (Penguins) and a five game series (Red Wings) so I guess I shouldn’t complain because the 2009 Stanley Cup Final was one of the most entertaining in some time.
In case you are wondering and I’m sure you aren’t, I correctly picked 2 of 7 series in the East and 6 of 7 in the West. So even if I get the Stanley Cup Finals prediction wrong, I will still finish above .500.
WCS 2 Chicago Blackhawks vs. ECS 7 Philadelphia Flyers
Season Series: 1-0 Flyers in a 3-2 win
Playoff History: 1-0 Blackhawks, the only time they ever met was in 1971 in the quarter finals which the Blackhawks swept.
Cup Drought: Flyers 35 years, Blackhawks 49 years
Past Stanley Cup Experience: Flyers (Chris Pronger) Blackhawks (John Madden, Marian Hossa) I don’t think I missed anyone.
GF/GA History: The Flyers were a +11 during the season and the Blackhawks were a +62. Since we haven’t had a team win the Stanley Cup in the last 20 years with a less than +25 differential, it doesn’t look good for the Flyers. This is also the largest differential since the Detroit Red Wings (+64) beat the Carolina Hurricanes (Even) 4-1 in the 2001-02 Stanley Cup Final.
Stars to Watch: I mentioned that Jonathan Toews would have to step it up big time in this playoffs for the Blackhawks to reach their Stanley Cup aspirations. So far he has, leading the team in assists and points and a few sick passes to boot. He will need to continue his current pace. For the Flyers I’m going with Danny Briere. It’s important for the Flyers to get secondary scoring and Briere had been providing a lot of that with an eight game point streak out of nine games. The last three games he had 0 points and a -1. He will need to step it up for the Flyers to have a chance.
X-Factor: Marion Hossa has so far been mostly productive with 11 points in 16 games. But he only has two goals so far. If he really thinks that “third times the charm” and he really wants to win a cup, I want to seem he prove that on the ice. His shooting percentage is a paltry .039%, 2nd worst on the team. For the Flyers I’d like to see how Jeff Carter’s foot holds up. He seems good so far increasing his ice time in Game 5 and scoring two goals. If he can continue that, it will be a huge boost to the Flyers.
Goalie Problem?: The funniest thing about this goalie match-up is that the biggest question for both the Blackhawks and Flyers over the years was can they find the right goalie to led them deep into the playoffs? Now it could be argued it’s one of their greatest strengths. Michael Leighton vs. Antti Niemi, two guys who were not the starting goalies at the beginning of the season. Heck Leighton wasn’t even on the team on opening day. But here they are, two of the hottest goalies around. The Flyers actually boasted two hot goalies this postseason with Brian Boucher as well. Leighton is 1st in playoff GAA and SV%, Niemi is 3rd and 5th respectively (I ignored goalies with only 1 game played). The looming question is can they keep it up? I think they both will. I still think Niemi is more tested seeing as how he has played more games but he has also faced more offensively skilled teams. The key though is how many bodies will be in front of them? Whatever defense can keep the zone more clear will obviously give their goalie the advantage.
Fun Facts: Only three Flyers and two Blackhawks were alive when the Flyers last won the cup. The 1974–75 Flyers were the last Stanley Cup champion to be comprised entirely of Canadian born players.
Prediction: I don’t like the Flyers that much but bias aside I really think the Blackhawks have the more talented team. It’s amazing the Flyers even made the playoffs limping in with a 5-8-2 record down the stretch. Of course the team they beat right before that 5-8-2 stretch was none other than the Blackhawks. Then again the reason that Chris Pronger was acquired was to lead them to the Stanley Cup Finals and he did that. Though it was also to shut down the likes of Crosby, Malkin and Ovechkin, players he never ended up facing in the postseason. It’s funny how things work out sometimes. One thing this series will be is physical. I’m really looking forward to Byfuglien and Eager mixing it up with Pronger, Asham and Hartnell. Generally you don’t see many fights in the playoffs but I think this series will have a few. Dustin Byfuglien will need to continue to excel at the little things he does so well, in order for the Blackhawks to have the advantage. I’m thinking Blackhawks in five or six.
10 – The +/- rating for the Flyers’ Claude Giroux 2nd in the postseason
5 – Power play goals for Jonathan Toews tied for the postseason lead
9 – Power play assists for Mike Richards 1st in the postseason (Kane and Toews are 2nd with 8 each)
4 – Game winning goals for Danny Briere and Dustin Byfuglien 1st in the postseason
5 – The number of shutouts for the Flyers, almost half of the 11 total for the whole postseason
3 – The number of shots by defenseman Ryan Parent in 16 games played
This Week in Hockey History
Special thanks to the Hockey Hall of Fame site for making this section a little easier to do.
May 24, 2000 Claude Lemieux scored his 80th career playoff goal and Alexander Mogilny scored the game-winner, his first career playoff game-winning goal in the Devils 2-1 win against the visiting Philadelphia Flyers, in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals.
May 25, 1989 Calgary Flames beat the Canadiens 4-2 to win the 1989 Stanley Cup Championship. It was the first time since 1928 that the Canadiens lost the final game of the Finals on home ice (Rangers won at the Forum against the Maroons in ’28).
May 26, 1966 Chicago’s Bobby Hull was named the winner of the NHL’s Hart Trophy, as the league’s MVP.
May 27, 1994 Stephane Matteau scored the winning goal at 24:24 of overtime to lead the Rangers to a 2-1 win over the Devils, in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals in New York. Rangers advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals vs Vancouver.
May 28, 2003 Goalie Parick Roy announced his retirement after 18 NHL seasons with Montreal and Colorado. Roy retired as the NHL’s all-time leader with 1,029 regular season games 551 wins, 247 Stanley Cup games, 151 playoff victories and 20 playoff shutouts.
May 29, 1993 Wayne Gretzky set a Stanley Cup record, with his 8th career playoff hat trick, and added an assist to lead the Kings to a 5-4 win at Toronto, in Game 7 of the Campbell Conference Finals. The win advanced the Kings to the Stanley Cup Finals.
Author: Alex Mueller
Alex Mueller graduated from Temple University with a minor in journalism over a decade ago. He’s been writing about NHL hockey, on and off, since the Fall of 2009. He’s written for Pucking Awesome, the Checking Line and now Hockey Recaps. He played goalie at San Diego Ice Arena. His first novel, Bobby Sterling vs Truth, is available on Amazon now.