One could make a strong argument that yesterday was the biggest day of hockey – beyond just the NHL – in all of 2010. Seriously, there were some huge games played on a world scale Sunday. In case you missed the three biggest outcomes, here’s a summary of the action, including PHT takes on each event.
Chicago sweeps San Jose with 4-2 win; Blackhawks make the Stanley Cup finals
(Chicago’s perspective, plus the fallout for San Jose)
Duncan Keith gave up seven of his teeth. Dustin Byfuglien scored his second game winning goal in a row (more on that later). Antti Niemi didn’t need to be quite as dominant (2 goals allowed on 18 shots) but nonetheless had a great series. Overall, the Chicago Blackhawks were downright amazing in their sweep of the Sharks. Really, the only thing the team needs to worry about at this point is their Eastern Conference foes and – maybe more than that – the myriad writers and fans who might jinx them by appointing the Blackhawks the Stanley Cup winners before they play a single finals match.
Czechs stun Russians for World Championships gold
(PHT’s story on the gold medal upset.)
Jaromir Jagr was vocal about his displeasure regarding Czech stars passing on the tournament. Well, now he must be happy they never showed up. The scrappy Czechs managed to beat the angry, star-packed Russian team 2-1 to claim an unexpected gold medal. Meanwhile, the Russians took the silver medal while Sweden managed to snag a bronze.
Taylor Hall and the Windsor Spitfires dominate the Brandon Wheat Kings to win the Memorial Cup
(Last night’s report on the 9-1 drubbing.)
I can’t help but wonder if the Taylor Hall-Tyler Seguin debate is already over, although the Combine hasn’t taken place yet. Still, Hall became the first player in Memorial Cup history to win the tournament’s MVP in back-to-back years. The Spitfires are drawing “one of the best junior teams ever” praise as they, too, won the Memorial Cup for consecutive seasons. They did so by embarrassing the host team Brandon Wheat Kings 9-1. Are Edmonton Oilers fans already getting excited about Hall?
Worry (if you’re pulling for the Stars) or gloat (if you’re a Blackhawks fan) all you want, but the bottom line is that the Central Division’s No.1 spot is clearly in Chicago’s control after Saturday night.
The Blackhawks earned a decisive 5-1 win against the Dallas Stars, giving them a five-point standings lead over Dallas for the Central Division lead.
You may feel like that’s more of the same, but consider this: things would look a lot closer if Dallas won or gained points, as they hold three games in hand on the ‘Hawks.
At least one Blackhawks player admits this game means a little more than your average W.
Indeed, while Antti Niemi was pulled from the game and Kari Lehtonen faced his own struggles in Dallas’ net, Corey Crawford ranked as one of the big reasons why the score was so lopsided.
(Artem Anisimov had a big say in that, too.)
As a wise coach with 1,000+ games of experience would do, Joel Quenneville didn’t go overboard in assessing the victory.
Was this a statement game? Who knows, but a certain statement is that the Blackhawks now have a five-point standings lead.
Looking at the standings, beating the Buffalo Sabres was pretty important for the Boston Bruins. The Atlantic Division’s run for spots appears particularly congested out East.
Of all the Bruins to get a chance to win it all, the team might have wanted Brad Marchand to have that opportunity. He’s on pace to destroy his previous career-highs for scoring, and Marchand’s been particularly hot lately.
Either way, Marchand came up big indeed, scoring the rare overtime game-winner on a penalty shot. Check out the drama below:
That can be a big extra point and ROW (regulation/overtime win) when the regular season is finished.
Note: Many believe that Marchand should not have received a penalty shot on the play.
For quite some time, it looked like the Florida Panthers would keep the Pittsburgh Penguins under wraps.
Florida nursed a 1-0 lead into a 2-0 margin almost halfway through the third period, looking to win its sixth consecutive game. That looked great … and then Sidney Crosby + Kris Letang happened.
Let’s put it this way: this GIF of Crosby being frustrated is amusing, yet it doesn’t exactly tell the story of Saturday’s 3-2 overtime win for the Penguins:
Instead, Crosby grabbed his 900th point assisting on a Letang goal, and finished the night with 902 by collecting the game-tying goal and grabbing a helper on Letang’s overtime game-winner.
Crosby crossing that barrier is indeed special, even if it prompts “What if?” questions about No. 87’s health.
The resurgence of Crosby and Letang already played a big role in the Penguins going from disjointed and frustrating to sneaky and scary, so it shouldn’t be that surprising to see them play so well. Doing so in such brisk order is a little bewildering, however.
Saturday’s been unkind to the Toronto Maple Leafs, and not just on the scoreboard (where it’s 3-0 early on against the Ottawa Senators).
The Maple Leafs lost Tyler Bozak to an apparent upper-body injury thanks to a questionable hit by Sens forward Mika Zibanejad.
You can judge that check (which drew a minor penalty for illegal check to the head) in the video above. Again, Bozak will not return to tonight’s game.
It’s unclear if Bozak will miss time beyond this contest.
Update: It didn’t get much better going forward; the Senators beat the Maple Leafs 6-1.