2010 Stanley Cup Finals: Flyers took unlikely road to finals

5 Comments

Certain games, goals, shots and hits stand out during the course of a
season as turning points, times when the season’s outcome can be
defined. Perhaps it’s a time when the team overcomes an injury to a
major player or how a backup goaltender stepped up and gave his team
playoff hopes.

For the Philadelphia Flyers, there was no bigger
moment that a shootout goal in the final game of the season.

The
Flyers had to overcome an incredible amount of diversity, including a
terrible run in the midst of the season that threatened to wreck any
postseason hopes the Flyers carried with them into the season. They went
through an incredible amount of goaltenders, eventually turning to
Michael Leighton to rest their postseason hopes upon; of course, he was
then lost for six weeks to an ankle injury.

Just 3-7-1 over their
last 11 games headed into the final showdown of the season against the
New York Rangers, the Flyers were in desperation mode. The game before,
the Flyers had blown a chance to clinch a spot in the playoffs with a
loss to the Rangers, thus forcing a “win-and-you’re-in” scenario in the
final game of the season. Just like the season itself, the Flyers made
things interesting in a closely fought game that of course had to head
to overtime.

It was Claude Giroux who would score the
difference-maker in the shootout, as it seemed the only Rangers player
interested in playing in the postseason was Henrik Lundqvist. It was in
that game that the Flyers buckled down, simplified the game and started
on the path that would spell incredible postseason success in the weeks
ahead.

Philadelphia is not a team that has just skated through the
postseason. They’ve won two series in just five games, but became just
the third team in NHL history to overcome a 0-3 deficit in a series to
eventually win. That they did so in Game 7 by overcoming a three-goal
deficit as well is a perfect example of just how determined this team
has been. They are still without their best scorer in Jeff Carter, was
able to take out the New Jersey Devils with Simon Gagne and for most of
the postseason have been without Ian Laperriere.

Most amazing of
all is how in the same game in which Michael Leighton finally makes his
return from his ankle injury, Brian Boucher is lost for the playoffs
with a devastating knee injury.

I don’t really know if there is
such a thing a team of ‘destiny’, but the Flyers have certainly got to
be the luckiest NHL team I’ve ever seen.

Yet they wouldn’t have
gotten to this point if it wasn’t for something that most of us hate;
the NHL shootout. If we had our way, then the Flyers and Rangers would
have kept playing until an actual goal was scored.

By entering the
playoffs on the merits of a shootout goal, many quickly dismissed the
Flyers as postseason threats. Boy, were we wrong.

Report: Wings, Hawks, Preds in mix to sign ‘strong two-way center’ Ejdsell

2 Comments

Keep an eye on Swedish forward Victor Ejdsell in the coming days.

Ejdsell, 21, caught the eye of several NHL clubs following a standout year with Bofors of the Swedish first division — including Detroit (where he visited earlier this week, per MLive.) Reports suggest that Chicago and Nashville are also interested in securing Ejdsell’s services.

It’s easy to see why.

He racked up 25 goals and 57 points in 60 games this year, and he’s got terrific size. At 6-foot-5, 220 pounds, the physical presence is there to potentially make the shift to the NHL next season.

“He’s evolved into a strong two-way center,” Detroit assistant GM Ryan Martin told MLive. “His move from wings to center helped his defensive game. He’s got good hands and offensive ability.”

Vlasic joins Canada for Worlds, extending marathon campaign

Getty
Leave a comment

Marc-Edouard Vlasic is putting in work this year.

On Friday, Hockey Canada announced that Vlasic — along with Mitch Marner, Brayden Schenn and Chad Johnson — has been added to the 22-player roster for the upcoming World Hockey Championship in France and Germany.

Vlasic’s season started early as a member of Canada’s World Cup of Hockey squad. He appeared in all six games, which included his tournament high TOI (24:04) in final against Team Europe.

From there, the 30-year-old rejoined the Sharks and appeared in 75 contests, averaging 21:14 per evening. He was part of a remarkably durable San Jose defense that saw Brent Burns play all 82 games, while Paul Martin, Brenden Dillon and Justin Braun appeared in 81.

In the playoffs, Vlasic was once again a busy guy. He finished second only to Burns in time on ice (23:16 per) and was often tasked with trying to shut down the Connor McDavid line. The Sharks would eventually bow out to the Oilers in six games.

And Vlasic might have even more to do this summer.

During his end-of-year media availability, Sharks GM Doug Wilson said getting Vlasic signed to an extension prior to September’s training camp was a big priority.

Vlasic’s current deal — a five-year, $21.25 million pact — expires next summer, and carries an average cap hit of $4.25M. Wilson didn’t mince words in describing how good he thinks Vlasic is.

“Vlasic [is] arguably one of the best defensemen in the league,” he said. “Marc-Edouard is still one of the most underrated players in the league in the outside world.”

Stepan: ‘I’ve stunk since the playoffs started’

Getty
1 Comment

Derek Stepan knows he’s not playing very well, and he knows he’ll have to be better if the New York Rangers are going to make it past the Ottawa Senators.

With just one goal (an empty-netter) and one assist in seven playoff games, Stepan’s offensive production has fallen off a cliff after a respectable 55-point regular season, which included 38 assists.

“I’ve stunk since the playoffs started,” Stepan said, per NHL.com’s Dan Rosen. “I’ve been not very good with the puck.”

An all-situations center, Stepan is more than just an offensive type. But he’s produced in previous playoff runs, and the Rangers need him to produce now — especially against a tight-checking Sens team that boasts a 2.00 goals-against average in these playoffs.

Stepan has 45 points (18G, 27A) in 92 career playoff games.

To be fair, he’s not the only Ranger who needs to get going offensively. One of the Blueshirts’ big strengths during the regular season was their balanced scoring, with all four lines contributing — and that’s not happening right now.

No Bieksa for Anaheim tonight, but Vatanen could return

Getty
2 Comments

The Ducks will be without their most veteran skater on Friday as they look to even up their series with Edmonton.

Kevin Bieksa, who exited Game 1 with a lower-body injury following a collision with fellow d-man Shea Theodore, has been ruled out for tonight’s Game 2. It marks the first tilt the 35-year-old will miss this postseason.

Bieksa was enjoying a pretty good playoff prior to getting hurt. He racked up four assists in five games, while averaging just under 17 minutes per night. Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle is holding out hope Bieksa could return later in the series.

While this is a loss for the Ducks, it goes a long way in illustrating how much defensive depth they have.

While Carlyle wouldn’t confirm, all signs point to Sami Vatanen drawing in for Bieksa. Vatanen has been out since Game 1 of the Calgary series with an upper-body injury, but has resumed practicing and sounds like he’s ready to go.

“It’s always nice when a player is closer to coming back and you can potentially put them back in the lineup,” Carlyle said of Vatanen.

Anaheim dressed a blueline of Bieksa, Theodore, Cam Fowler, Josh Manson, Hampus Lindholm and Brandon Montour in Wednesday’s 5-3 defeat. If Vatanen can’t draw in for Bieksa, the club still has Korbinian Holzer in reserve.