2010 Stanley Cup Finals, Game 2: Flyers, Blackhawks aim for improvement

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Blackhawks2.jpgChicago Blackhawks vs. Philadelphia Flyers

Stanley Cup Finals, Game 2

Blackhawks
lead series 1-0

Live on NBC, 8 p.m. EDT

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Generally the NHL playoffs are defensive battles, close
affairs with both teams fighting not to make mistakes as each goal
allowed becomes more and more devastating the deeper into the playoffs
they go. There will always be breakdowns, but generally the games become
intense and low scoring scoring games as every single player on both
teams raises the level of their play to levels they’ve never reached
before. Teams that fail to keep up with the intensity and drive of the
other becomes a footnote in the annals of the Stanley Cup finals.

Game 1 resembled none of this. A sloppy, yet ultimately
entertaining game that saw ten goals scored in the first two periods was
like nothing anyone expected. After all, the backbone of both the
Blackhawks and the Flyers is their defense and while the goaltending was
never exactly a strength of both teams it had been a while since we had
witnessed breakdowns of this level.

That it happened
to both teams, in the same game, is nothing short of extraordinary.

The Blackhawks, despite the win, realized that they were
lucky. They allowed a less talented team to come out and get confidence,
surprising everyone when the Flyers grabbed a 3-2 lead headed into the
first intermission. The Blackhawks fought back in the second and the
third, yet walked away knowing that if they hope to hoist the Stanley
Cup at the end of the series they’ll need to play much, much better than
they did on home ice against the Flyers.

For the
Flyers, they should feel confident in themselves after playing the
Blackhawks so close. Yet just like Chicago, they know they were nowhere
near their best and they paid for it with a tough loss. Despite coming
out so energetic and so determined to begin the game, they were
undisciplined defensively and allowed the Blackhawks to tie the game and
take three different leads after holding a 3-2 lead themselves after 20
minutes.

Was it just jitters for two teams that
overall are lacking Stanley Cup experience? The Blackhawks have Marian
Hossa and the Flyers have Chris Pronger, but overall these are two
generally young and inexperienced teams when it comes to playing with so
much on the line.

I don’t expect to see another game
like we witnessed on Saturday, and I’m certain that both the coaches
and players are determined to have their teams get back to what had been
so successful for them leading up to this point.

For
the Flyers, that means a more physical approach as they work to keep
not only the Hawks’ top line off the scoreboard but also the rest of the
team as well. The Flyers were duped into a run and gun game that is far
from the style they employ so well, and they need to find a way to
limit the attack of the Blackhawks. Keeping the Hawks to the perimeter,
forcing them to fight for the puck along the boards and using the
physicality that the Flyers are so good at is exactly the approach this
team needs; not some haphazard, up and down game that exposes every
weakness the Flyers have.

The Blackhawks were
surprisingly undisciplined on defense, allowing the Flyers all sorts of
space in the first half of the game. What was more amazing was how the
Hawks walked away with a win despite Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and
Dustin Byfuglien having their worst games of the postseason. They
weren’t just ineffective, they were horrible.

The
scoring depth of the Hawks won’t be there every game, and if the Flyers
are able to consistently lock down that top line they they’ll have a
damn good chance at walking away with the Cup after all is said and
done.

Game 1 was entertaining but for hockey purists
it was one ugly performance by each team. Both sides will lock things
down, and I expect to see a much more disciplined game by both teams
tonight — disciplined in the actual play, that is. I fully expect to
see the Flyers and the Blackhawks get more physical, more undisciplined
along the boards and in scrums as they settle into the series and look
to get the upperhand in any way possible.

Oilers lament plenty of ‘individual miscues’ in loss to Ducks

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The Anaheim Ducks are apparently heading out of town, reportedly flying a short distance west to Kelowna, B.C., and leaving behind the playoff-crazed city of Edmonton until the series resumes for Game 4.

On the other hand, the Edmonton Oilers are left to contemplate what went wrong in a 6-3 loss to the Ducks on Sunday, as Anaheim got back in the series but still trails 2-1.

From the 25-second mark of the first period, it seemed the Oilers were on a losing path in this one after Rickard Rakell opened the scoring.

Edmonton did come back, but then quickly gave the game right back to the Ducks, who scored three unanswered goals and had completely taken the crowd in Edmonton out of it in the third period. They did a pretty good job of silencing the fans in Edmonton right away, with three goals before the game was 12 minutes old.

“We worked our way back in, but it wasn’t our night,” said Oilers coach Todd McLellan. “We weren’t sharp enough. Individual miscues were plenty. They were all over the board. You couldn’t even shorten the bench to find two or three lines. There were that many who were erring on a consistent basis.”

The Oilers were able to escape Game 2 with a victory — and Anaheim with a 2-0 series lead — thanks largely to the play of goalie Cam Talbot, but the Ducks solved him Sunday, scoring six times on just 28 shots.

The Oilers may have sparked a brief comeback, but there was really no sugar-coating this one, especially after Anaheim regained the lead and then badly outplayed the hosts in the third period — when the Oilers needed to push for the equalizer.

 

Ducks light up Cam Talbot to defeat Oilers

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Chris Wagner‘s first career playoff goal was the turning point in Game 3 for the Anaheim Ducks, as they defeated the Edmonton Oilers 6-3 to get their first win of this series.

Connor McDavid had just scored (another) spectacular goal, this one to get the Oilers back on even terms at three goals apiece after they fell behind 3-0 in the opening period. The orange crush at Rogers Place was, naturally, in a frenzy at the time.

The tide of this game had suddenly turned in favor of the home team, which had a 2-0 series lead.

As suddenly as the Oilers had come back to tie the game, the Ducks regained the lead. Wagner fired the puck from the side boards toward Cam Talbot, who misplayed the puck off his right arm and into the net.

That was only one part of a difficult night for Talbot, who allowed six goals on 28 shots. Anaheim had built up a three-goal lead less than 12 minutes in and needed only six shots to do so.

Talk about a quick turn of events. Talbot was sensational in Game 2, backstopping the Oilers to another road win with a 39-save performance.Edmonton’s troubles started early in Game 3. Rickard Rakell scored just 25 seconds in on a breakaway and the Ducks were rolling from there.

Wagner’s goal came just 48 seconds after McDavid tied the game. Jakob Silfverberg and Ryan Kesler increased the Anaheim lead in the third period.

This time, there was no inspired comeback from the Oilers.

While the Ducks found their scoring touch, they also received a 24-save performance from John Gibson. He was at his best in the second period, making a couple of key saves, including a great shoulder stop off a three-on-one rush.

Game 4 goes Wednesday in Edmonton.

Video: Connor McDavid puts on a show with this spectacular goal

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Connor McDavid has his first goal of this series against the Anaheim Ducks — and it was a beauty.

(Another spectacular McDavid goal? Get out!)

With one assist so far in this series, McDavid brought the crowd in Edmonton to its feet with a quick stop and cut back to his left against Sami Vatanen, followed immediately with a perfect wrist shot top corner on John Gibson.

“McWow!” is right.

The Oilers fell behind 3-0 in the first period, but that goal from McDavid tied the game before the midway point of the second period.

The celebration didn’t last long.

Just 48 seconds later, Chris Wagner‘s shot from the side boards, a rather harmless looking attempt, was misplayed by Cam Talbot to put Anaheim back in front by a score of 4-3. That’s the score heading into the third period.

‘We weren’t even competitive’ — Blues coach hints at lineup changes for Game 4

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Lineup adjustments can be a common occurrence in the playoffs. Based on his comments Sunday, St. Louis Blues coach Mike Yeo is seriously looking to make some changes for Game 4.

The Blues trail the Nashville Predators 2-1 in the series, following a disappointing 3-1 loss on Sunday.

Nashville dominated puck possession for long stretches, putting this one away on a goal from Roman Josi after just such a shift — caused by a Blues turnover in the defensive end — late in the third period.

Yeo praised the Predators for the way they checked the Blues, but was straight to the point with his assessment of his team’s performance.

“I mean, we scored one goal tonight. Fact of the matter is, for a large part of the game, we weren’t even competitive,” he told reporters.

“We obviously have to be way better. We have to make a couple of changes, personnel-wise, for the next game and look at the tape and see what we can do … a little bit better than tonight because it wasn’t good enough.”

Despite getting outplayed, the Blues were, for much of the second half of the game, one shot away from the tying goal. But hopes of a possible comeback were nullified after a shift of about 1:10 of furious Nashville possession in the offensive zone capped off by the Josi blast.

Blues defensemen Joel Edmundson and Colton Parayko — who both had a miserable day in terms of puck possession — had been stuck on the ice for almost two minutes before Josi scored, per NHL.com.

That’s one glaring example.

“The way we played in our [defensive zone] matched the way that we executed, matched the way that we competed all over the ice,” said Yeo.

“We were waiting to see what they were going to do. We were reacting to that. So we’ve got to initiate much better.”