2010 Stanley Cup finals: What this series means for both teams

bobby hull.jpgOnce the Detroit Red Wings and Pittsburgh Penguins were ousted from the second round of the playoffs, it became clear that this year’s Stanley Cup finals would not have a “been there, done that” feeling. The Chicago Blackhawks and Philadelphia Flyers ensure that whoever wins the Cup will end a long drought for a historic NHL team.

In this first post, I’ll take a look at what’s at stake for each franchise (and fan base). After that, there will be chatter about which players have won Cups and which ones might be looking at their last chance.

Long time coming

Despite being (more or less) a fixture among the Eastern Conference contenders since their infamous Broadstreet Bullies days, the Philadelphia Flyers haven’t managed to raise the Cup since 1975. They couldn’t it make it happen with volatile puck-mover Ron Hextall or Eric Lindros’ Legion of Doom or the one-two center punch of Jeremy Roenick and Keith Primeau.

Chicago Blackhawks fans have been waiting even longer since their last sip from Lord Stanley’s trophy. The last time the Original Six franchise won it was 1961 … when there were six teams and the Bobby Hull-Stan Mikita combination captivated the Windy City.

Forgive fans for either franchise if they fail to “act like they’ve been there before.” Not many of them have, particularly with a large young fan base in Chicago.

Is it now or never?

There’s reason to believe that this might be the best chance that both teams will have to win a Cup, even though the Flyers may be forgiven for taking a “Just happy to be there” mentality and both teams are stocked with plenty of young talent.

I’ve documented Chicago’s looming cap headaches already and one can only imagine Antti Niemi’s restricted free agent contract will make for more challenges (more on that later). Barring some Scott Gomez to Montreal type trade miracles with the likes of Brian Campbell and Cristobal Huet, my guess is that the Blackhawks will go from a ridiculously deep team to a squad that depends heavily on its big contract guys in Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith and Marian Hossa. That might not be enough in an always-loaded West.

With Philadelphia, you have to wonder if they’ll be able to make it back simply because of their Eastern Conference superiors. I’ve stated before that the Capitals should be able to bolster their lineup with oodles and noodles of cap space this summer. It’s no secret that Philly struggles with their cross-state rivals in Pittsburgh (0 for 2 in playoff series in the Crosby Era), too. It could be years before the Flyers have another chance to get to the finals without going through one – if not both – of Pittsburgh and Washington.

It’s a cliche to say that young players like Patrick Kane and Claude Giroux shouldn’t “take this trip for granted because you never know when you’ll be back again” but it’s true. Just ask a player like Gary Roberts, who won a Cup with the late-80s Flames and didn’t see the finals again until he was a greybeard with the Penguins in ’09.

They need to cherish this moment and … most importantly, they need to win.

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    Milbury, Jones: Tkachuk walked the walk; Kings’ response was embarrassing

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    The Los Angeles Kings got revenge on Matthew Tkachuk and the Calgary Flames on the scoreboard on Wednesday. But was that 4-1 win enough?

    Mike Milbury and Keith Jones provided a lengthy “overtime” segment on NBCSN that brought about some really fascinating takes on the situation between Tkachuk and the Flames versus Drew Doughty and the Los Angeles Kings.

    Watch the full video above, as it’s worth your time.

    A few interesting lines if you’re (tsk tsk) skipping it:

    Milbury: Believes that Doughty didn’t “do enough,” noting that star players sometimes have to stick up for themselves. On the other hand, Tkachuk showed that he can “walk the walk.”

    He also gave the Kings a “C-, D+ if not worse” for their overall response. “Fight your own battles,” Milbury said of Doughty.

    Jones disagreed to some extent, believing that Kings teammates won’t look at Doughty differently. But Jake Muzzin? He believes that Muzzin’s frequent defensive partner (at least over the years, maybe not this season) backing down from a fight was an embarrassment.

    Spicy stuff.

    For what it’s worth, Drew Doughty has one career fight (against Joe Thornton [!] in 2011-2) while Jake Muzzin’s lone bout came against Andrew Desjardins in 2012-13, according to Hockey Fights. Does that mean they shouldn’t have dropped the gloves on Wednesday? Milbury and Jones seem to believe that they should have answered the bell.

    For more, check out a collection of the early violent moments and Tkachuk’s attempted shot at Doughty. The Kings win is summarized in greater detail here.

    Measure of revenge: Kings delay clinching efforts for Flames, Blues

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    Deep down, the Los Angeles Kings probably realize that their season will end on game 82. Still, they kept their slim playoff hopes alive on Wednesday night … and managed to spite a team they’re growing to hate.

    OK, maybe the hate is almost totally focused upon Matthew Tkachuk, yet the disdain for that talented-but-tormenting rookie was palpable.

    It didn’t feel like the Kings exacted physical revenge on Tkachuk, but beating his team 4-1 ranked as classic scoreboard vengeance. With that, the Calgary Flames (and by extension the St. Louis Blues) will need to wait to clinch a playoff berth.

    Now, as much as tonight was about Tkachuk, the focus was also on a pugnacious player who once dazzled for the Flames: Jarome Iginla.

    In what might be Iginla’s final visit to Calgary – at least as an active NHL player – he was one of the best players on the ice. His fitting curtain call included a “Gordie Howe hat trick” with a spirited fight, an assist and a goal.

    Seriously, that fight with Deryk Engelland:

    That goal included a bit of luck, but hey …

    Iginla was named the first star of the contest, and cameras captured his big smile in enjoying a special night. For all the nastiness of that game, it was refreshing to see such a heartwarming moment.

    For more on the violence, check out this post on the early stuff and this one on Tkachuk’s missed missile launch on Drew Doughty.

    Kings and Canucks will square off in first NHL exhibition games in China

    graphic via NHL
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    It’s official: the NHL will hold preseason games in China before next season.

    The league made the announcement on Wednesday night: the Los Angeles Kings and Vancouver Canucks will play two exhibitions: one on Sept. 21 (Shanghai) and Sept. 23 (Beijing). How cool is that?

    “It is a privilege and an honor for the L.A. Kings to represent the National Hockey League in China as part of these two games against the Vancouver Canucks,” Kings president Luc Robitaille said. “Growing the game of hockey is something we take great pride in and it is a big priority for our hockey club and AEG as a whole. This will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for our players and our staff, and we are looking forward to the games taking place in two tremendous facilities in two remarkable cities.”

    The press conference inspired some jokes tonight.

    Some of the best bits came in roping in … Kobe Bryant and David Beckham?

    Alrighty then.

    Click here for more details.

     

    Video: Drew Doughty (mostly) avoids massive Matthew Tkachuk hit

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    Hockey is such a fast sport that it’s probably not so easy to make someone your “target.” Instead, a big hit often comes down to the right combination of circumstance and timing.

    Still, there’s no denying that Matthew Tkachuk is gunning for Drew Doughty (and the Kings are gunning for Tkachuk) on Wednesday.

    Doughty isn’t oblivious to that notion, either, as you can see him avoid what looked like a pretty terrifying hit above.

    We’ve already covered the early violence in this game, and it’s quite possible that there will be more carnage going forward. Stay tuned.