2010 Stanley Cup Finals: Flyers took unlikely road to finals

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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.

‘It’s all my fault’: Mike Babcock takes responsibility for penalty box blunder

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Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock is often regarded as the best coach in hockey, but even the best make silly mistakes sometimes.

During last night’s game between the Leafs and Columbus Blue Jackets, Babcock’s error forced his team to play an extra 1:54 shorthanded.

Early in the third frame, Roman Polak was given a five-minute penalty and a game misconduct for boarding Oliver Bjorkstrand (Polak is scheduled to have a hearing with the NHL’s Department of Player Safety on Thursday morning). Instead of sending someone to the penalty box to serve the major infraction, Babcock decided to leave the box empty.

Coaches aren’t obliged to send someone to the sin bin right away. During any stoppage in play before the end of penalty, they can send someone to finish serving the infraction. Unfortunately for the Leafs, Babcock never did.

So when Polak’s five-minute major expired, the Leafs couldn’t simply throw someone onto the ice from their bench, they had to wait for a stoppage in play.

Toronto players tried to ice the puck a couple of times, but that didn’t work. So finally, Brian Boyle flipped the puck into the Columbus bench to get a whistle, but not before his team spent nearly seven straight minutes shorthanded.

They ended up winning 5-2, but they held a slim 3-2 lead at the time.

Luckily for Babcock, his penalty killers did an incredible job, as they only allowed one shot on goal throughout the kill.

After the game, he took full responsibility for what happened.

“I’m doing better now, but can you imagine?,” said the Leafs bench boss, per the Toronto Sun. “It’s all my fault, me, the two assistants on the bench, two in the video room and 15 players on the bench. And we can’t get that done right? Often it happens and you just fire a guy in the box. It could have cost you. It will never happen in my lifetime again, I will never wait to put a guy in. But our penalty kill was really good.”

PHT Morning Skate: Ovechkin will be rocking incredible custom skates for Russian Heritage Night

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–With only a few weeks remaining in the regular season, we’re starting to get a better idea of who will be in and out of the playoffs. With that being said, The Hockey News put together a list of five players that could benefit from playing on another team. Devils goalie Cory Schneider is at the top of the list. Schneider’s been solid since joining New Jersey, but the team hasn’t had much success. (The Hockey News)

Erik Karlsson has always been known as an offensive defenseman, but this year, he’s made several defensive improvements to his game. The changes have made him so effective that his head coach, Guy Boucher, believes he should be in the running for a Hart Trophy. (Canadian Press)

–The Washington Capitals will be hosting a Russian Heritage Night tonight. During the pre-game warmup, Alex Ovechkin will be rocking these custom skates honoring his home land and his American home. He’ll be auctioning off the skates too. (CSN Mid-Atlantic)

–The New York Islanders trailed the Rangers 2-1 heading into the third period, but thanks to goals by Nikolay Kulemin and Andrew Ladd, they were able to come out on top. You can watch the highlights from last night’s “Battle of New York” by clicking the video at the top of the page.

–Vegas GM George McPhee chatted with Sportsnet’s Gene Principe about being able to build a team from scratch. McPhee called the experience “fantastic” and “really neat”. He also discussed his vision for the team and how he’s approaching the expansion draft. (Sportsnet)

–The Detroit Red Wings have been a model franchise for quite some time, but they’ve on the verge of going through some pretty big changes. First, Joe Louis Arena will be closing its doors and secondly, their long playoff streak will be coming to an end this season. Sports Illustrated takes a deeper look at the old barn and the third-longest playoff streak in pro sports. (Sports Illustrated)

–Many people feel like the Calder Trophy race will come down to Auston Matthews and Patrik Laine, but Bob McKenzie says there’s more than two worthy candidates because Zach Werenski has been equally good this season. But who is McKenzie leaning toward?

Ducks take control of second in Pacific after edging Oilers

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Connor McDavid was fantastic on Wednesday, but the Anaheim Ducks overcame his strong showing for a significant win in the Pacific.

McDavid scored a goal and two assists, yet Ryan Getzlaf was right there with him with three assists, helping the Ducks win 4-3.

With that, Anaheim is clearly ahead of Edmonton for second in the Pacific. The Ducks would hold home-ice over the Oilers if the playoffs began today, and better yet for them, a division title isn’t out of the question:

1. Sharks – 91 points in 73 games played
2. Ducks – 89 points in 73 GP
3. Oilers – 87 points in 73 GP
4. Flames – 86 points in 73 GP

As you can see, the Oilers aren’t exactly far ahead of the Flames for third, either.

Going forward, the Oilers have an interesting schedule: a mix of games against cellar dwellers (two apiece against the Canucks and Avalanche) plus two games apiece versus the Kings and Sharks.

The Ducks’ schedule includes two matches against the Flames, one against the Kings and one more match at Edmonton on April 1.

Long story short, the jockeying for position is far from over, but this was a pretty significant win for the Ducks.

Video: Connor McDavid shows off speed and skill (again)

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Connor McDavid‘s 26th goal of 2016-17 was a lot like many others: an impressive display of skill and speed. He didn’t blaze past the Anaheim Ducks like has against opponents on other occasions, but his rare wheels still came in handy.

Maybe more than sheer speed, this tally is a reminder that McDavid could do impressive things while losing little or no momentum. It’s one thing to have straight-line speed, but he has the hands and hockey IQ to take advantage of his swift skating.

McDavid already has two points in this one, pushing him to 84 points. He also extended his point streak to five games (three goals, six assists if he stays at one of each on Wednesday).