2010 Stanley Cup Finals: Blackhawks and Flyers still not at their best

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This has been a very entertaining series to watch so far, especially
considering some of the bad blood that is developing between these two
teams.

Still, it’s sad to see both teams fail to play their best two games
in a row.

The Chicago Blackhawks are still waiting for some kind of production
from Toews, Patrick Kane and Dustin Byfuglien. Granted, Byfuglien
finally got a point in the game, yet the Flyers have done one hell of a
job negating the top line of the Blackhawks. Conversely, the Hawks have
shut down Mike Richards and Jeff Carter, with Simon Gagne finally
getting a goal in the third period.

The difference in this series has been the scoring depth of the
Blackhawks, something the Flyers have no way of matching game after
game. Both games have been just one-goal losses, so it’s impossible to
say that the Flyers have been grossly outplayed. Yet in a seven-game
series, if you take away the top lines for both teams there’s no
doubting which one of the Flyers and the Blackhawks will have the
advantage night after night.

The Flyers were able to score five goals on Saturday night behind
some timely goals by role players, despite their top forwards failing to
register a point. For the second game in a row, Mike Richards and Jeff
Carter struggled and it showed as the Flyers struggled to put together
an offensive attack in the first two periods. The Flyers finally found
their groove in the third period, yet the Flyers top players still
failed to get on the board.

Once again, the Flyers walked away feeling like they played well and
just needed to improve. After the game coach Peter Laviolette said his
team definitely finished better than they started.

“I think we could have started a little bit better tonight. I’m not
sure we should be frustrated,” said Laviolette. “I don’t think we got
outplayed. I think when you’re at the end of the night you’re going to
look at it again, probably outshot him, outchanced him a little bit and
didn’t get the results we were looking for.”

The Flyers certainly improved in Game 2, yet despite the coach
feeling they shouldn’t be frustrated are now down 2-0 headed back to
Philly. For the Flyers to have any chance of pulling off a comeback,
they’ll need to get much more from their top players.

The Blackhawks are facing a similar issue, still waiting for their
best game to show up. Thankfully, the Flyers were more concerned with
physicality and antagonizing the Blackhawks in the first period to worry
about putting together a full 60 minute effort. Once again, the
Blackhawks have relied a bit too much on the play of Niemi for their
success, something the coach Joel Quenneville hopes will change in
Philadelphia.

“We certainly didn’t want to spend that much time in our own end, and
the quality that they’re getting, we had to be better,” said
Quenneville after the game. “They’re coming, they’re pressing, and
they’ve got a lot of guys that can make plays.

“I think that’s,
you know, that was one of those games where we’d like to spend some time
in their end. We’d like to have some more puck-possession game, we
started the game the way we’d liked. Second period we might have been
fortunate coming out with some very timely goals.”

If the Hawks and the Flyers both continue to have struggles with
their best players producing, there’s no doubt the series favorites the
Blackhawks. With a 2-0 series lead now, Chicago also has a significant
advantage. Yet it’s been some timely saves by Antti Niemi and some bad
bounces for the Flyers to keep this series from being more in the favor
of Philadelphia, something the Blackhawks know must change moving
forward.

Once this series gets back to Philly, the Flyers will become a much,
much different team.

A big night for the rookies and a big win for the Maple Leafs

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William Nylander helped get Toronto started on Thursday, extending his point streak to 10 games — a new Maple Leafs franchise record for a rookie.

Connor Brown finished it with his 17th goal of the season, securing a 4-2 win for the Maple Leafs over the New Jersey Devils.

Toronto has won three in a row and moves three points clear of Boston for third in the Atlantic Division, with a game in hand, which further helps the Maple Leafs’ playoff chances with nine games remaining on their schedule.

Just another big night for Toronto’s impressive crop of rookies.

Auston Matthews had a pair of assists.

— Nylander had a goal and an assist. He set one and tied another franchise rookie record on Thursday.

Mitch Marner had an assist, giving him 40 helpers this season, which ties the franchise rookie record set in 1943-44.

“They’re good players,” said coach Mike Babcock, per the Toronto Star. “I didn’t know Marner would make the team. I knew Matthews and Nylander were good players. I knew Brown and (Zach) Hyman were relentless. I had no idea (Nikita) Zaitsev was as close to how good he is.

“We have lots of good players.”

In May of 2015, Babcock predicted at his introductory press conference that the Maple Leafs would, during their massive rebuild, endure “pain.” This was, he said, to be a long process — a “massive, massive challenge.”

Approaching the two-year anniversary of that event — after all the losing that franchise and its fan base has gone through, which obviously helped them with the Matthews lottery last year — the Maple Leafs are poised to make the playoffs with a nucleus of young players that present even more promise for the future.

“We just want to get in to the playoffs, and give ourselves a chance,” continued Babcock. “We’re playing well, and finding a way to win games. That’s what we have to continue to do.”

Capitals defeat Blue Jackets in clash of Metropolitan Division powers

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WASHINGTON (AP) T.J. Oshie scored the shootout winner as the Washington Capitals overcame a stellar performance from Columbus goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky to beat the Blue Jackets 2-1 Thursday night.

Despite 44 saves from Bobrovsky, the Capitals reached 104 points and extended their lead atop the Metropolitan Division and NHL standings. Oshie engendered memories of his Sochi Olympic shootout performance by again beating Bobrovsky, the goalie he scored on four times in six chances that day.

Dmitry Orlov finally cracked Bobrovsky early in the third period on Washington’s 35th shot of the game. Orlov’s goal tied the score after Seth Jones beat Braden Holtby on a wild scramble early in the third for his first goal since Feb. 7.

Holtby had 29 saves in regulation and overtime and three more in the shootout to pick up his 38th victory of the season, one shy of Bobrovsky for the league lead.

A showdown between two of the top three teams in the league jockeying for position atop the Metropolitan Division lacked a playoff feel. But the matchup of two likely Vezina Trophy finalists lived up to that billing as Bobrovsky and Holtby went back and forth with big saves.

Bobrovsky entered the night first in wins, goals-against average and save percentage with Holtby second, second and third in those categories. The 2013 Vezina winner could also be an MVP contender this season given his value to Columbus’ third playoff berth in franchise history.

“When he’s in his game it’s very hard to score on him,” said Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin, who had eight shots stopped by one of his Russian national teammates. “He likes the big moments, he likes pressure. His worth ethic is unbelievable. … In my opinion he’s one of the best goalies in the league right now.”

Methot ‘out for weeks’ after suffering a shattered finger from Crosby clash

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The Ottawa Senators lost defenseman Marc Methot for the bulk of Thursday’s game against the Pittsburgh Penguins, and it seems he’ll be out for quite a while longer, too.

Methot was injured on a Sidney Crosby slash across the hand in the first period. He didn’t return to the game and there was no penalty called on the Penguins captain.

Footage showed the gruesome aftermath of the slash — Methot’s finger on his left hand bloodied and injured as he skated back to the bench.

“His finger is shattered and he’s out for weeks,” said Senators head coach Guy Boucher, per the Ottawa Sun.

Methot immediately confronted Crosby after the slash, which occurred as the Sens blue liner went to dump the puck into the Pittsburgh zone late in the first period.

The Senators got revenge, scoring a 2-1 shootout victory to move within a point of Montreal for the Atlantic Division lead. Crosby was also denied in the shootout.

NHL to make ‘special announcement’ in China next week

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The National Hockey League has announced it will make a “special announcement” at the LeSports Center in Beijing, China next Thursday.

In January, the league’s deputy commissioner Bill Daly made it clear the NHL has interest in playing games in China — likely starting out with pre-season games before potentially adding in some regular season contests in the future, as well.

Just after the league made its announcement on Thursday, the L.A. Kings tweeted out that they will participate in next week’s event, along with the Vancouver Canucks.

In January, hockey insider Darren Dreger reported that the Canucks and Kings were likely to play NHL pre-season games in China this upcoming September.

Last July, members of the Boston Bruins visited China, specifically Beijing and Shanghai, to host hockey clinics in those cities.

Beijing will also host the 2022 Winter Olympics.