Flyers/Blackhawks—Final Thoughts Before The Stanley Cup Final Begins

May 29th, 2010 No Comments

It’s funny how things work out. Last summer there were a few teams that kept creeping into the experts Stanley Cup champion predictions—the Chicago Blackhawks and, to a lesser degree, the Philadelphia Flyers.

The Blackhawks and Flyers took very different routes to the Stanley Cup Finals. For the Hawks, their high-powered offense and stingy defense paved the way for their regular season and subsequent playoff success.

As for the Flyers, their inclusion in the Stanley Cup Finals came in spite of a coaching change, numerous injuries and with the benefit of hard work, fighting through adversity and a little thing called lady luck.

Regardless of the way these team have arrived in the Stanley Cup Finals, it’s safe to say both of these teams deserve to be here.

Chicago enters the Stanley Cup Finals as the prohibitive favorites with a roster that features some of the most exciting players in the game, mainly, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook.

Upon further review, the Flyers, while offset with plenty of veteran players, boast their own impressive group of youngsters in the form of Mike Richards, Jeff Carter and the ever improving Claude Giroux.

On paper, there isn’t much to choose between these two teams. Both have offensive depth, both have plenty of grit and both have goaltenders that have as many great attributes as they do question marks.

Let’s face it, for one of these teams, something is going to have to give. Both the Flyers and Blackhawks are playing well defensively, both these teams are playing great defense and both of these teams are getting excellent goaltending.

The first goal of the series may prove to be huge. If the Blackhawks score first one has to think that the United Centre crowd will be all but unbearable. If the Flyers can score first they can achieve a measure of momentum and, while it would be tough to ever take the Blackhawk crowd out of the game, would gain a bit of breathing room.

The coaching seems to be about even, with both the Hawks Joel Queneville and the Flyers Peter Laviolette bringing tremendous resumes to the dance.

Special teams have been a strong point for both teams. That said, if the refs choose to call a close game during the Stanley Cup Finals you have to think the Flyers would end up on the short end of the stick there.

With so many things being equal between these two teams it would seem as if we are destined for a close series—one that should see it’s fair share of overtimes.

Many pundits have stated that the Flyers had it easy in beating the New Jersey Devils, Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens en route to the Final. All three of these teams had questionable offenses in the regular season and were, for the most part, ineffective against the Orange and Black.

On the flip side, the Hawks defeated three of the regular season’s best teams in the Nashville Predators, Vancouver Canucks and San Jose Sharks.

What’s not being mentioned about the Hawks’ opponents, is the fact that all three of the Predators, Canucks and Sharks entered the Stanley Cup playoffs with the reputation as being playoff chokers—especially the Nashville Predators (who have never made it past the first round) and the San Jose Sharks (who have continually come up short come playoff time despite having a deep roster).

The illusion of the ultimate match up between Flyers captain Mike Richards and the Hawks captain Jonathan Toews is nice on paper but is unlikely to happen. As is the case when Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin play against each other, both coaches will likely elect to keep these two superstars away from each other rather than going with the highly anticipated head-to-head battle everyone wants.

As is the case in many NHL games, this series is likely to be decided with goaltending and in the trenches. It will be the secondary players—Dustin Byfuglien (who, admittedly has been a go-to guy this playoff), Troy Brouwer, Andrew Ladd and David Bolland for the Blackhawks and Claude Giroux, Scott Hartnell, James Van Riemsdyk and Ville Leino for the Flyers that may very well emerge as the difference makers for their respective teams.

When everything is said and done it may very well be the little things that are the difference in this series—faceoffs, timely power plays, special teams and checking.

Defensively, the Flyers combo of Chris Pronger and Matt Carle will have to be dominant, while the Blackhawks duo of Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith will need to be near flawless as well.

All and all, this series has the potential to be a classic, both in respect to the passion with which the fans will support their teams and with the play each team is capable of on the ice.

Good luck to both the Chicago Blackhawks and Philadelphia Flyers. Let’s hope this series is everything we want it to be—gritty, tough, old-time hockey, with just enough skill and power to make it entertaining.

Go Flyers! Go Hawks! May the best team win!

For more NHL news and notes check out my website @ www.theslapshot.com

Until next time,

Peace!

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