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.

Scroll Down For:

    The Buzzer: Night of the goalies

    Leave a comment

    Players of the Night:

    Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning: The Lightning needed Vasilevskiy to play like the NHL All-Star that he is and that’s exactly what he gave them, stopping 40 shots to help the Lightning to a 2-0 win over the Chicago Blackhawks. The win was important for Tampa, who regained the top spot in the NHL standings and ended a three-game slide in the process. Vasilevskiy’s league-leading seventh shutout of the season ties a franchise record.

    Petr Mrazek, Detroit Red Wings: Mrazek fielded 37 shots from the New Jersey Devils on Monday night and handled each and every one of them for his second shutout in as many starts.

    Nick Cousins, Arizona Coyotes: Cousins got the ball rolling for the Desert Dogs in the first period, giving them a 1-0 lead. After the Islanders tied the game in the third, Cousins put the final stamp on the game with a goal 2:21 into overtime to give Arizona their second straight win.

    Comeback of the Night:

    Jason Zucker, Minnesota Wild: Zucker got drilled in the head with a slap shot in the first period and had to be helped off the ice. Miraculously, Zucker returned a short time later and went on to score the game-winning goal at the 4:59 mark of the third period, breaking a 1-1 tie in the Wild’s 3-1 win against the Ottawa Senators.

    Highlights of the Night:

    Granlund and Dumba:

    Mrazek made plenty of saves on Monday and perhaps none better than this one (Brian Boyle‘s reaction is priceless):

    Ottawa Senators fans will like this, even if the end result wasn’t great:

    Auston Matthews had the celebration of the night:

    Factoids of the Night:

    Scores:

    Avalanche 4, Maple Leafs 2

    Red Wings 3, Devils 0

    Wild 3, Senators 1

    Lightning 2, Blackhawks 0

    Sabres 2, Flames 1 (OT)

    Coyotes 3, Islanders 2 (OT)


    Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

    Lightning end three-game skid with 2-0 win over Blackhawks

    Leave a comment

    Jon Cooper called declared that his team was “out of sync” prior to Monday night’s game in Chicago.

    It’s three words that haven’t been used at all this season to describe the Tampa Bay Lightning who, up until Sunday, was known as the best team in the NHL.

    The Lightning came into Monday night nursing a three-game losing streak, another foreign concept for a team saw four of its players elected to the NHL’s All-Star Game this coming weekend.

    But just as quickly as they dropped out of the top spot in the NHL — the Vegas Golden Knights assumed that throne for 24 hours after a win on Sunday night — the Lightning snatched it back in a 2-0 triumph over the Chicago Blackhawks in the Windy City on Monday.

    For a team that perhaps forgot how to play with one another, they looked comfortable in each other’s company against the Blackhawks.

    The game was tight for the most part, and it took the Blackhawks being caught napping shorthanded to break a 0-0 deadlock late in the second period as Chris Kunitz took advantage of a defensive mishap. 

    Jake Dotchin’s wrister sailed wide, but Kunitz was allowed to waltz behind the net, pick up the loose puck and put it behind Jeff Glass, nearly untouched through the whole process.

    The NHL’s top goalie once again lived up to the distinction as Andrei Vasilevskiy turned aside all 40 shots that came his way.

    The Blackhawks put up 10 or more shots in each of the game’s three periods, including 17 in the second frame. But the All-Star netminder played and exceptional game, including stopping 10 out of 10 on the power play to keep Chicago 0-for-6 on the power play.

    Yanni Gourde sealed the game late in the third with a blast to make it 2-0.

    It’s a win Tampa needed, especially after finding out they’ll miss forward Ondrej Palat indefinitely.

    The struggles continued for the Blackhawks, meanwhile.

    Chicago has now been shutout twice in their past three games and is on a three-game skid with a 4-5-1 record in their past 10.

    The Lightning could afford their losing streak. They’ve earned an opportunity to slide a little bit.

    For the Blackhawks, another loss means another chance missed trying to survive in a deeply competitive Central Division.

    The Blackhawks are hanging by a thread and time is running out quickly.


    Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

    The Colorado Avalanche’s win streak hits double digits

    Associated Press
    2 Comments

    The streak is now in double digits.

    The Colorado Avalanche won their 10th straight game on Monday night, taking down the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-2.

    Yes, that’s 10 wins by the team that ended last season with an NHL-worst 48 points.

    Hockey is wonderful, isn’t it?

    The Avalanche have been pretty darn good during that streak, outscoring opponents 41-16 during that span. Scoring four goals per game on average will win you more than it won’t.

    And the Avs have had success on the back end. Jonathan Bernier has been completely lights out during the streak. He is on a streak of his own with nine straight wins, becoming the third netminder in franchise history to win nine in a row after Stephane Fiset (9) and Patrick Roy (11).

    Colorado’s streak is also an NHL-best this season and it’s the second longest streak in Avs history (they won 12 straight during the 1998-99 season).

    The Avs are sitting on 57 points, good for the second wildcard spot in the Western Conference.


    Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

    Jason Zucker takes a puck to the head (video)

    Getty Images
    Leave a comment

    How in the world did he get up?

    Too many players have been getting drilled in the head lately by slap shots. It’s an ugly site to behold whenever it happens

    Somehow, however, Jason Zucker of the Minnesota Wild was able to pop right back up and head directly to the dressing room. No passing GO on this one.

    The puck hit him so squarely in the helmet that it ricocheted back toward the Thomas Chabot, who uncorked the shot in the first place.

    Even more insane is that Zucker was able to return to the game.

    Talk about hard-headed.