Game 1 of the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs was nothing short of an awesome showcase for the excitement that is the NHL. It had everything you could possibly ask for. A rocking crowd, lead changes, lots of goals, a close game and little known players stepping into the spotlight. In fact no team ever had a lead greater than one goal, you really couldn’t ask for anything more. It also had some questionable things, such as a seemingly skewed refereeing job. The top story of the night however was goaltending.

I went back through the past 50 years of NHL history and unless I’m wrong, I could not find any other match-up where both (not one goalie, both) starting goalies had no playoff experience prior to their current playoff run. If that’s true you’re watching history in the making. It also explains why we had such a high scoring affair. Both Antti Niemi and Michael Leighton looked pretty shaky, especially early on. Some of the shots that went in, probably wouldn’t have been a goal in the earlier rounds. Niemi seemed to get better as the game progressed and made some critical saves later. To wit he allowed four goals in the 1st half of the game and only one goal in the 2nd half. I honestly couldn’t believe it when Niemi raced out of his net, almost to the top of the face-off circle, in the 2nd period with two Blackhawks and one Flyer chasing after the puck. It made me think of Halak’s huge blunder in Game 5 against the Flyers, which reversed the momentum in that game. Luckily for Niemi nothing bad happened but he really needs to not do that again.

The 1st goal of the 2010 Stanley Cup Final was a pretty lame goal to christen the series with. Niemi blocked the initial shot only to bat it off of Niklas Hjalmarsson’s head and into the net. I like that the Blackhawks didn’t let them phase them as they marched right back down to tie the game 1-1 on Troy Brouwer’s goal.

It wasn’t much of a surprise to me that the Blackhawks scored a shorthanded goal on only their 2nd shorthanded situation of the game. Chicago lead the league in shorthanded goals in the regular season and they currently do so in this postseason. They pretty much dominated this Flyers’ power play and I believe they had more scoring chances on it then the Flyers did. Dave Bolland got the short handed goal which Leighton probably should have stopped. The Flyers did get the equalizer on their next power play and knotted the game up at 2 a piece. Daniel Briere put the Flyers ahead in the closing seconds of the 1st period following up his own shot.

About a minute into the second Patrick Sharp led a breakaway down the ice but decided to keep it and scored on another shot that Leighton probably should have stopped. Sharp tied the game at 3-3. Then some guy named Blair Betts, seriously I’ve never head of him before, brought the Flyers back in front 4-3. This goal was on Niemi as he could have and should have played the puck behind the net better to give position to the Blackhawks. Instead a few seconds Betts had the goal off the post. Kris Versteeg tied the game at 4, by cleaning up in front of the Flyers’ net.

Hossa nets his second assist on the night, both on Brouwer goals, with a sick little pass from behind the net. Leighton then gets pulled for Brian Boucher after he hits that magic number five, the number most goalies seemed to get pulled at. The score was now 5-4. Danny Briere then emulates Hossa with his own little nifty pass to Arron Asham who ties the game 5-5 for our 5th tie of the night. Thomas Kopecky got the game winning goal after waiting out Boucher and with help from Brent Seabrook and Bolland keeping it in the offesnive zone.

Key Players: Briere broke his mini three game slump to have a huge game with a goal and three assists to pace the Flyers. Brouwer had two goals and an assist to lead the Blackhawks. Marion Hossa had two nice assists.

Not so Key Players: The Blackhawks top line of Jonathan Toews, Dustin Byfuglien and Patrick Kane produced no points and a -9 rating. Mike Richards, Simon Gagne and Jeff Carter were there own woeful -8 and also produced no points. I can’t even recall either captain, Richards and Toews, doing much of anything significant. Both will really need to step it up and get their lines out of their current funks.

Then there’s the referring. I like how there weren’t any calls in the 3rd period, just let them play. What I didn’t like is that the Blackhawks had four penalties and the Flyers had none in the game. Hard to believe the 2nd most penalized team in the league in the regular season did not commit a single penalty. I saw a few high sticks and holds that probably should have been called. The 20,000 or so “refs” in the stand sure saw some as well. I’m hoping we get better called games in the rest of the series.

As for the physicality of the game, I have to say I was expecting a little bit more. Early in the 1st period Byfuglien was mixing it up with Chris Pronger and Asham but they didn’t but heads as much later on. Part of it was it just being the 1st game, the other part was Chicago never really got their offense set, especially on the top line, for Byfuglien to do his thing and cause problems. Game 2 should be interesting to see how this dynamic progresses.

The goaltending is what really makes this series. Both of these teams are pretty even on all aspects of their game and they’re both really deep. If you want to see just how even these teams are, check out Game 1’s shots on goal. Both teams had 32 shots a piece. The team that ultimately wins Lord Stanley’s Cup is the team that gets the better goalie play between their two inexperienced netminders. Niemi got the better of the 1st game, but not by much. The Flyers have a slight advantage, as they believe they have two goaltenders that they can confidently insert into the game. The Blackhawks have to rely solely on Niemi, as I’m pretty sure they have no confidence in Cristobal Huet. The Flyers have a decision to make in who should start the next game. Personally I would go with Boucher as he played better and seemed more composed. It’s obviously not an easy decision for the Flyers to make. Game 2 is set for Memorial Day May 31st at 8pm ET.

This Day in Hockey History

May 29, 2002 Dominik Hasek recorded his 10th career playoff shutout in the Red Wings 2-0 win over the Avalanche at Colorado, in Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals.

Alex MuellerAnalysisAntti Niemi,Arron Asham,Blair Betts,Brent Seabrook,Brian Boucher,Chicago Blackhawks,Chris Pronger,Cristobal Huet,Daniel Briere,Danny Briere,Dave Bolland,Dominik Hasek,Dustin Byfuglien,Jeff Carter,Jonathan Toews,Kris Versteeg,Marian Hossa,Michael Leighton,Mike Richards,Niklas Hjalmarsson,Patrick Kane,Patrick Sharp,Philadelphia Flyers,Simon Gagne,Stanley Cup,Thomas Kopecky,Troy Brouwer
Game 1 of the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs was nothing short of an awesome showcase for the excitement that is the NHL. It had everything you could possibly ask for. A rocking crowd, lead changes, lots of goals, a close game and little known players stepping into the spotlight....