2010 Stanley Cup Finals: PHT's finals predictions

30 Comments

Everyone has their predictions for the Stanley Cup finals, where they
try and determine which team will win and in how many games. You’ll see
plenty of that tonight and especially tomorrow as we gear up for Game
1.

We here at Pro Hockey Talk decided to take things a bit further,
predicting not only the winner of the series but also a number of other
topics as well. Once again, I’m sure than I will get none of these
right.

Best goaltender:

James: Antti Niemi – It doesn’t really matter
which goalie is better, in the grand scheme of things, because the team
effect will make all the difference in this one. Michael Leighton will
deal with such a barrage that Niemi will look better. That’s all that
really matters.

Joe: Michael Leighton – I don’t believe that Antti
Niemi will be counted on to save the Blackhawks’ skin at all and while
what I believe the end results will make it seem like Niemi was the
star, Leighton is the guy that’s going to have to look the part, lest
his team lose by five goals a night.

Brandon: Michael
Leighton
– I think that both goaltenders will look great, but I just
have this feeling that Leighton will get more chances to show his
ability. Niemi will be solid, but Leighton is going to have a lot more
pucks to stop. He’s also the more athletic of the two, so while Niemi
will be solid Leighton will have more “wow”.

Biggest difference-maker:

James: Chris Pronger – Not necessarily a bold opinion,
but I think the gap-toothed elbow thrower can help the Flyers maintain
some dignity. Will he make enough of a “difference” for them to win the
series, though? Well, no …

Joe: Dave Bolland – He may not show up on the stat
sheet at all times with goals or assists but “The Dirty Rat” is the guy
doing everything else out there so Kane, Toews, Sharp, and Hossa can all
get free.

Brandon: Jonathan Toews – He’s been the
best player in the playoffs so far and I don’t see how that changes.
Despite the great depth of the Blackhawks, I doubt Chicago will have a
very easy time against the Flyers unless Toews continues to play at such
a high level.

Unsung hero of the Cup finals:

James: John Madden – He’s a great penalty killer but
has a Mike Grier-like deficiency when it comes to cashing in on the
many breakaways he creates. His lack of scoring will keep him from
drawing much praise, but he can do just about everything else.

Joe: Jordan Hendry – I’m sure you’re asking yourself,
“Who the heck is Jordan Hendry?” Hendry is basically Chicago’s sixth
defenseman and while he’s not getting a ton of minutes (Average time on
ice 8:15) or playing all that well (he’s a team low -4) he is allowing
Dustin Byfuglien to both be a forward and wreak havoc on everyone else’s
defensemen.

Brandon: Claude Giroux – The man has come alive in
the postseason and if the Flyers have any hope of knocking off the
Blackhawks he’ll have to continue being hot. He’s allowed the Flyers to
use two productive and effective scoring lines in the playoffs,
something this team will desperately need in the finals.

Storyline no one is talking about:

James: How about Joe Quenneville possibly breaking the great
drought of Cup winning coaches with awesome mustaches? It’s been too
long since Ken Hitchock represented the ‘stache.

Joe: The emergence of Claude Giroux. In the playoffs, he’s
scored at a point per game pace (8 goals, 9 assists in 17 games) and has
exploded on the scene as a top six forward on a team top-heavy in
scoring talent. While Mike Richards, Simon Gagne and Danny Briere are
going to get the headlines, Giroux is the guy flying under the radar.
For the Flyers, his emergence has spurred them on to the Finals.

Brandon:
How another mid-season replacement coach can win the Stanley Cup. Last
year, Dan Bylsma took over the Penguins, turned the team around and took
them all the way to the Stanley Cup. Now, we have Peter Laviolette, who
took the Flyers after a horrible start to the season and while the
Flyers barely made the playoffs, he’s given this team all of the hope
and motivation it needs.

Top goalscorer:

James: Marian Hossa – For some reason, I just have a
weird feeling Hossa will have a good series. Eh, I’m probably just
saying this because “Jonathan Toews” or “Patrick Kane” just seems too
obvious, though.

Joe: Jonathan Toews – While the wealth gets spread
around pretty equally on Chicago, and I don’t see why that won’t
continue, Toews is, simply put, the man and while a guy like, say,
Dustin Byfuglien is going to have his hands full dealing with Chris
Pronger, Toews will enjoy having the extra room to maneuver.

Brandon:
Jonahan Toews – He did it against Vancouver and against the Sharks,
there’s no reason to think he won’t continue to roll against the Flyers.

Most penalty minutes:

James: Dan Carcillo is my first instinct, but since he might
get scratched for a game or two, why not Chris Pronger?

Joe: Chicago is really good at being physical and talking crap
and Philly is equally as good at it. I’m going with a wild card here
though and I’ll run with Chicago’s Adam Burish.

Brandon: I
would say Dan Carcillo, but he may not get enough minutes. I’ll roll
with Chris Pronger.

Predict the winner:

James: The Flyers are on fire, but look at the frail offenses
they faced in the playoffs so far. Simply put, the Blackhawks are a
completely different animal. Their offense is deep, their defense can do
it all and Niemi is making a name for himself. That being said, my
debate wasn’t “Flyers or Blackhawks?” but rather “Chicago in 4, 5 or 6?”
Chicago wins it in 5.

Joe: Philly hasn’t played a team this good since they played a
motivated and trying to get in the playoffs Red Wings team in early
April. If I wanted to be a real jerk and disprove myself, I could say
they haven’t played a team this good since they played Chicago in March,
but I won’t be that guy. Chicago has been a runaway train of hockey
awesomeness for the last two series and I don’t see why the 18th best
team in the league is going to get in their way. Chicago wins this
series in five
and I don’t think it’s going to be all that close

Brandon: This is a tough one, although it seems that no one is
willing to give the Flyers a chance at all with this one. I know
everyone thinks the Blackhawks will just roll through the Cup Finals,
but I just can’t discount the Flyers after the postseason they’ve had.
So I’ll go in the other direction. Flyers stun the world, win in 6.

Hitch: ‘I see the devastation in our locker room’

Leave a comment

Despite a late comeback attempt, the 2015-16 season came to an end for the St. Louis Blues, as they lost the Western Conference Final in six games to the San Jose Sharks.

And with Wednesday’s loss, the off-season will settle upon the Blues. It will be an intriguing one in St. Louis, starting with their head coach Ken Hitchcock. He’s on a one-year deal and he has already outlined that he’s fine with taking short-term contracts. But is an appearance in the conference final enough to solidify his place behind the St. Louis bench for next year?

The Blues have, according to General Fanager, five pending unrestricted free agent forwards, including Scottie Upshall, Kyle Brodziak, Steve Ott, and most notably Troy Brouwer and David Backes.

Backes, 32, is the team’s captain and coming off a 21-goal, 45-point regular season, which is a decline from the numbers — 26 goals and 58 points — he posted the year before. Brouwer, 30, enjoyed the best post-season of his career, with eight goals and 13 points in 20 games, and he could potentially cash in on that this summer.

However, while there are questions ahead for the Blues, the emotional toll this loss took was clear.

“I see the devastation in our locker room right now. Guys aren’t even able to speak. I’m more worried about our guys right now, to be honest with you. We got some guys that are pretty shook up right now,” said Hitchcock to reporters.

“I’m not going to talk to them for a day or two. They need their space with each other. They’ve bonded together here better than any team I’ve coached in the last 10 years. They need their time together. They don’t need me interrupting them right now. We’ll talk at an appropriate time. But right now they need to be with each other.”

 

Video: So, Joe Thornton is pretty stoked about playing in the Stanley Cup Final

2 Comments

‘Jumbo’ Joe Thornton is off to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in his career. The San Jose Sharks are off to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in franchise history.

And yeah, the 36-year-old Thornton, a veteran of 1,367 regular season games with 1,341 career regular season points, is pretty excited for both himself and his team when it comes to this feat.

It hasn’t been easy in San Jose. It hasn’t been easy for the franchise, for the fans, for the players, for Thornton or for Patrick Marleau, who is also 36 years old and has played his entire career (1,411 regular season games) in San Jose.

There have been playoff failures and a regular season disappointment last year. There has been a coaching change and harsh words exchanged between Thornton and management — more specifically, GM Doug Wilson — and an organizational decision to remove the captaincy from Thornton.

After all that, however, the Sharks are four wins away from hoisting the Stanley Cup.

Did we mention Joe Thornton is excited about the final?

Franchise history: The Sharks are off to the Stanley Cup Final

12 Comments

For the first time in franchise history, the San Jose Sharks are off to the Stanley Cup Final.

This, after a monumental and historical collapse in the first round to the L.A. Kings two years ago. This, after they failed to make the playoffs a year ago, resulting in a coaching change. There have been other post-season disappointments along the way before that, too.

Those difficult times may never be forgotten. But the Sharks have rebounded, and it culminated with a 5-2 victory over the visiting St. Louis Blues in Game 6 of the Western Conference Final on Wednesday. Fans at SAP Center could feel it, too, especially after Joel Ward scored his second goal of the night, giving San Jose a three-goal lead early in the third period.

The Blues attempted a furious comeback but couldn’t quite complete it.

The Sharks this year have eliminated the Kings, Nashville Predators and now the Blues in that order. They await the winner of the Eastern Conference Final between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Pittsburgh Penguins.

 

The Sharks got off to the perfect start in the series clincher versus St. Louis. Joe Pavelski recorded his 13th goal, which leads all players in this post-season, and the Sharks continued to roll from there.

Ward increased the lead in the second period and again in the third. His second of the night proved to be the winner. Joonas Donskoi‘s goal, making it 4-0 San Jose before the midway point of the third period, proved critical as the Blues tried to spark a desperation comeback.

The Blues’ leading scorer Vladimir Tarasenko (40 goals, 74 points in the regular season) was held off the score sheet through the first five games of this series, before finally striking for both St. Louis goals in Game 6.

Penguins, Lightning prepare for the ‘roller coaster’ of Game 7

TAMPA, FL - MAY 24:  Ryan Callahan #24 of the Tampa Bay Lightning checks Sidney Crosby #87 of the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Final during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Amalie Arena on May 24, 2016 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images)
Getty Images
3 Comments

PITTSBURGH (AP) Sidney Crosby is in no mood to get caught up in his own personal narrative, the one eager to attach whatever happens to the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals on Thursday against Tampa Bay to the superstar’s legacy.

Forget that Crosby has the game-winning goal in each of Pittsburgh’s victories in its entertaining back-and-forth with the resilient Lightning. Forget that he hasn’t been on the winning side of a post-series handshake line this deep into the playoffs since his glorious night in Detroit seven years ago, which ended with him hoisting the Penguins’ third Stanley Cup.

Yes, he’s playing well. Yes, his dazzling, imminently GIF-able sprint through the Tampa Bay zone late in the second period of Game 6 added another signature moment to a career full of them. Yet lifting Pittsburgh back to the Cup final for the first time since 2009 does not rely solely on him so much as the collective effort of all 20 guys in his team’s retro black and Vegas gold uniforms.

Related: Vasilevskiy ‘is the big reason we’re in Game 7,’ says Bolts coach Cooper

Depth has carried the Penguins this far. Crosby insists Game 7 will be about the team, not him.

“You give yourself the best chance of winning by keeping it simple and not putting too much emphasis on kind of the story line around it,” Crosby said.

Even if it’s easy to get lost in those story lines. The Lightning are on the verge of a second straight berth in the final despite playing the entire postseason without captain Steven Stamkos and losing Vezina Trophy finalist Ben Bishop in the first period of the conference finals when he twisted his left leg awkwardly while scrambling to get into position.

Yet Tampa Bay has stuck around, ceding the ice to the Penguins for significant stretches but using their speed to counterattack brilliantly while relying on 21-year-old goaltender Andrei Vasilevski. The Lightning are hardly intimidated by having to go on the road in a series decider. They did it a year ago in the Eastern final against New York, beating the Rangers 2-0 in Madison Square Garden.

“You’ve got to go back to a tough environment, just like the Garden was last year,” Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper said. “And you’ve got to have your A-game.”

The Lightning hoped to avoid revisiting this spot. They could have closed out Pittsburgh at home but fell behind by three goals and didn’t recover, fitting for a series that appears to be a coin flip as a whole but not so much night to night. The team that’s scored first is 5-1 and there’s only been a single lead change in 18-plus periods spread out over nearly two weeks: Tyler Johnson‘s deflection in overtime that gave Tampa Bay Game 5.

“You always want to play with the lead, and always the first goal is big,” said Lightning defenseman Anton Stralman, who is 7-0 in Game 7s. “But, again, we were down 2-0 in Game 5 and came back from that. So it’s not cut in stone, the outcome of the game, no matter if you’re down a goal or two.”

Maybe, but it’d be cutting it pretty close. Tampa Bay’s rally in Game 5 was Pittsburgh’s first loss when leading after two periods all year. The Penguins responded by going back to rookie goaltender Matt Murray – who turned 22 on Wednesday – and putting together perhaps their finest hockey of the postseason. Their stars played like stars while Murray performed like a guy a decade older with his name already etched on the Cup a few times.

The Penguins will need to rely on Murray’s precocious maturity if it wants to buck a curious trend that started well before Murray was born. Pittsburgh hasn’t won a Game 7 on home ice since Mario Lemieux and company beat New Jersey in the opening round of the 1991 playoffs to escape from a 3-2 series deficit and propel the Penguins to their first championship. The Penguins have dropped five straight winner-take-all matchups since then, including a loss to Tampa Bay in the first round in 2011, a series Pittsburgh played without either Crosby or Evgeni Malkin, who sat out with injuries.

They’re healthy now and showing extended flashes of the form that seemed to have the Penguins on the brink of a dynasty when they toppled Detroit. And the Lightning, who are 5-1 in Game 7s, are hardly comfortable but hardly intimidated as they play on the road.

“I think it’s a roller coaster,” Cooper said. “But Game 7 is Game 7. There’s no two better words than that.”