2010 Stanley Cup Finals: Will anyone pick the Flyers to win?

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Leighton.jpgWhen writing the postgame story for the Chicago Blackhawks’ series
win over the San Jose Sharks, I finished the post with this statement:

You
wonder if the Eastern Conference team will even stand a chance.

Now,
obviously that was a bit hyperbolic, and even though the series wasn’t
over yet there was a good chance the Blackhawks would be facing the
Flyers in the Cup finals.

Do I really think the Flyers don’t stand
a chance? Not at all. Yet I do believe that this will be a test that is
much, much harder for the Flyers than they’ve had all postseason long.
No matter what the Flyers have accomplished, the Chicago Blackhawks are
completely different than and a much better team than the Montreal
Canadiens, Boston Bruins and New Jersey Devils

Conversely, the
Blackhawks have dispatched the the Vancouver Canucks and the San Jose
Sharks in ten games combined between the two series.

So you can
understand why the Flyers might be considered underdogs headed into the
finals.

Now, all of the Cup finals predictions haven’t come in
from the media horde (ours will be up tomorrow) but I doubt there will
be many predicting a Flyers win. After all, the Blackhawks are more
talented, have a deeper roster, have a better overall blueline and
despite Leighton’s great series against Montreal, Antti Niemi has been
the better goaltender. They’ve been gearing up for this moment all
season long, playing at an exceptionally high level from the very start
— goaltending issues aside — and have actually found a way to play
even better in the playoffs.

For the Flyers, it’s been a season
of extreme highs and lows, and they made the postseason relying upon a
shootout victory in the final game of the season. Since then, it’s been a
story of destiny and overcoming adversity, including a historic series
win over the Boston Bruins.

But do they have what it takes to beat
the Blackhawks, a team that is seemingly better in every category?

Many
who do the picking and the predictions will see the stats and the
matchups and say that the Flyers have no chance. After all, there’s no
way to measure intangibles, a willingness to win and an overall refusal
to lose when their backs are against the wall.

Odds in Vegas are
considerably in favor of the Blackhawks, and if you decide to bet on the
Blackhawks straight up, you’ll only receive about $60 in return for a
$100 bet.

Everyone is against the Flyers, a place where they’ve
been before. They didn’t have a chance against New Jersey, there was no
way they could come back against Boston and there’s no way they would
dispatch the Canadiens so easily. Yet they did, and inexplicably are
here in the Cup finals.

There will invariably be some that pick
the Flyers, but overall it’s a good bet to say they are considerable
underdogs. I’m guessing the Flyers are perfectly fine with that, and
believe this is exactly where they’d want to be.

Here’s your Stanley Cup playoffs schedule for today

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After the Eastern Conference Game 2s played out on Saturday, we’re getting the Western Conference set today. You can watch the action via NBC Sports Group’s television and digital platforms.

Here’s a quick overview of where specifically you can watch the contests:

St. Louis at Dallas (3:00 p.m. ET)

If you want to watch the game on television, NBC is the channel to do that. If you want to stream the game with the NBC Sports Live Extra app, click here.

Nashville at San Jose (8:00 p.m. ET)

The game will be televised on NBCSN. You can also stream the contest by clicking here.

Here’s some relevant pregame reading material:

With Eaves injured, Nichushkin will play for Stars in Game 2

Hitchcock, Blues know they need to slow down the Stars … but can they?

Sharks swarm in the third period, take down Predators in Game 1

Speed, skill help Stars score late victory to take series lead over Blues

Video: Penguins coach takes issue with late, high Orpik hit on Maatta

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The Pittsburgh Penguins have spoken out against a late, high hit that Washington Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik threw on Olli Maatta early in the first period of an eventful Game 2 on Saturday.

Maatta left and didn’t return. He played only 31 seconds, and the Penguins were reduced to five defensemen for a large portion of the game. Orpik was given a minor penalty on the play, but the league’s Department of Player Safety may see it differently.

The hit occurred well after Maatta had gotten rid of the puck. He struggled on his way to the dressing room for further evaluation.

Based on multiple reports, Orpik wasn’t made available to the media following the game, which went to the Penguins as they earned the split on the road.

But the Penguins have taken issue with the hit.

“I thought it was a late hit,” said Penguins coach Mike Sullivan, as per CSN Mid-Atlantic. “I thought it was a target to his head. I think it’s the type of hit everyone in hockey is trying to remove from the game.”

Game on: Penguins even series with rival Capitals

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The Pittsburgh Penguins will head back home with a split of their second-round series with the rival Washington Capitals.

Former Capitals forward Eric Fehr came back to burn his hold team, as he scored with under five minutes remaining in regulation to help lift the Penguins over Washington with a 2-1 victory in an eventful Game 2 on Saturday. Evgeni Malkin threw the puck toward the net and Fehr was able to re-direct it by Braden Holtby.

Oh, this was an eventful game, indeed.

It started early in the first period with Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik catching Penguins blue liner Olli Maatta with a late and high hit that warranted — at least for now — only a minor penalty for interference. Maatta, clearly in distress following the hit, didn’t play another shift and saw only 31 seconds of ice time in total, as Pittsburgh was reduced to five defensemen for the remainder of the game.

It continued in the third period. Kris Letang was furious after getting called for a trip on Justin Williams, and even more ticked off when the Capitals tied the game on the ensuing power play.

For two periods, the Capitals couldn’t get much going. Only four of their players had registered a shot on goal through 40 minutes, while the Penguins held the edge in that department and held the lead.

Washington came out with more jump in the third period, testing rookie netminder Matt Murray with 14 shots in the final 20 minutes. But the Penguins got the late goal to break the deadlock.

Video: Penguins’ Letang was furious after Capitals tie up Game 2 with power play goal

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Kris Letang watched from the penalty box as the Washington Capitals tied up Game 2 with a power play goal in the third period. The Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman was called for tripping after he appeared to muscle Justin Williams off the puck as he entered the zone.

Letang let his disagreement with the call be known at the time, and was furious after the Capitals capitalized on a goal from Marcus Johansson.

The Capitals started the period down a goal and being outshot 28-10 by the Penguins, who need a win to even the series.

Also, it seems this is worth mentioning: