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:

    Kassian has ‘no hard feelings’ towards Canadiens

    Edmonton Oilers v Tampa Bay Lightning
    Getty Images
    Leave a comment

    Zack Kassian never played a regular season game for the Montreal Canadiens. But unless he is held out of Edmonton’s lineup on Saturday, he’ll face his old team as a member of the Oilers.

    The Habs acquired Kassian from the Canucks in the summer, after the 25-year-old forward essentially wore out his welcome in Vancouver under the team’s new management. However, an October car accident that Kassian was involved in set forward a number of events that appears to have ultimately changed Kassian’s life for the better.

    He told reporters that car accident might’ve been the best thing to happen to his career.

    After the accident, he was placed in Stage 2 of the Substance Abuse program and suspended without pay. He was reinstated in December and immediately waived by the Canadiens. A couple of weeks later, he was traded to Edmonton.

    And, after opening up about his struggles with alcoholism, he’s since been recalled to the NHL, appearing in eight games for the Oilers, scoring twice and adding four points.

    “I’m not looking for any redemption,” said Kassian, as per Sportsnet.

    “Me, I got an opportunity to play for the Edmonton Oilers and I’m very thankful for that. I’m not mad at Montreal by any means. If anything I’m mad at myself for screwing up that opportunity. I’m just looking to move forward. Obviously it will feel nice if I get a goal [Saturday] or even better if we get a win but there’s definitely no hard feelings.”

    Video: It took only 4:33 of the first period for Hurricanes to build 3-0 lead on Jets

    Leave a comment

    The Carolina Hurricanes got off to a spectacular start on Friday. Conversely, their opponent, the Winnipeg Jets, got off to a horrendous start.

    Before Friday’s game was even five minutes old, the Hurricanes had built a three-goal lead. Phillip Di Giuseppe opened the scoring at 1:43 of the first period. By the 4:33 mark, when Jordan Staal scored, Carolina was up three, forcing a goalie change for the Jets.

    Connor Hellebuyck was pulled after allowing three goals on six shots.

    Update: It’s 4-0 Hurricanes . . . 10:04 into the game. Yup. Could be a long one tonight in Winnipeg.

    Scrivens and slumping Habs face daunting task against McDavid and suddenly high-flying Oilers

    506090854
    Getty Images
    Leave a comment

    Connor McDavid is kind of good.

    In the two games since his return to the Edmonton Oilers, he’s kind of — just kind of — had an impact. Five points in two games — that counts as an impact, right? Oh, and did you see this goal in his return earlier this week?

    Since McDavid’s highly anticipated return Tuesday against Columbus, the Oilers have outscored the opposition 12-3 in two games. Small sample size? Yes. Against teams currently not in playoff positions? Yes.

    But that’s still very impressive and with him in the lineup, there appears to be a sense of optimism in Edmonton.

    Enter the free-falling Montreal Canadiens. Enter goalie Ben Scrivens, who only made his debut for the Habs at the end of December and will face his old team, the Oilers, on Saturday.

    In four games with the Habs, Scrivens has been scored on 15 times.

    The Habs, without Carey Price, have been in a tumble down the Eastern Conference standings for a long time now. And, really, there doesn’t appear to be an end in sight.

    Now, the Habs and Scrivens are tasked with facing McDavid and the suddenly high-flying Oilers.

    And Canadiens fans probably aren’t the cheeriest right now, as their team has gone from on the verge of NHL history in October to becoming an afterthought in the playoff picture in February.

    In each of their last seven games, the Habs have failed to score more than two goals in regulation. So it would seem that if Montreal is to get a win, Scrivens will need to be as close to perfect as possible.

    No pressure.

    “Unfortunately, it seems like my whole career has been playing behind teams that don’t have that confidence, except for my time in L.A.,” Scrivens told reporters.

    “It’s a challenge as a goalie but all you can do is worry about your job. I can’t go out there and start trying to break pucks out and do anything I’m not supposed to be doing. My job is to try and stop pucks and try and stop as many as I can.”

    With the way McDavid and the Oilers have been scoring since the break and his return, it appears that will be a monumental task for Scrivens.

    And with the Habs in a 1-8-1 slide in the past 10 games, the timing probably couldn’t get any worse.

     

    Stars put Spezza on injured reserve, recall Faksa from AHL Texas

    Dallas Stars v Arizona Coyotes
    Getty Images
    Leave a comment

    Sitting three points out of top spot in the Central Division and on the eve of an important divisional clash on home ice with the Chicago Blackhawks, the Dallas Stars have placed center Jason Spezza on injured reserve retroactive to Thursday, the club announced on Friday.

    Spezza, 32, was injured during Thursday’s game against the Colorado Avalanche. The Stars can move back to within a point of Chicago for the division lead with a regulation win on Saturday.

    In 52 games this season, Spezza has 18 goals and 40 points, which ties him with Patrick Sharp for fourth on the team in total points.

    With Spezza out, the Stars recalled 22-year-old forward Radek Faksa from the Texas Stars in the AHL.

    Faksa has 15 goals and 26 points in 28 games this season with Texas. In 18 games with the NHL Stars, he has one goal and three points.