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.

Flames’ Bennett, Tkachuk accused of slew-footing in loss to Leafs

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The Calgary Flames dropped an ugly 4-0 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Monday, not exactly rebounding from an embarrassing 7-3 defeat at the hands of the Edmonton Oilers.

Things were ugly in a different way toward the end, especially if you ask Maple Leafs fans, as Sam Bennett and Matthew Tkachuk may or may not be guilty of “slew-footing” late in the contest. In each case, they were whistled for roughing.

Bennett was guilty of the first incident on Connor Carrick:

Meanwhile, around the time of the final whistle, Tkachuk’s “roughing” of Martin Marincin drew quite a bit of ire. You can see for yourself in the video above the post’s headline.

More than a few people believe that Tkachuk will be on the Department of Player Safety’s radar thanks to this moment.

There’s no doubt that he’s been making waves as a pest – really, from his first game in the NHL – but some believe he went over the line this time. He’s second in the NHL with 92 penalty minutes, by the way.

Patrick Marleau’s magical third period secures Sharks win vs. Avalanche

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At 37 years old and nearing 500 career goals, there aren’t a ton of things Patrick Marleau has failed to accomplish.* Still, he did something he’s never done – and few players have managed to do – in the San Jose Sharks’ 5-2 win against the Colorado Avalanche on Monday night.

The amusing thing is that it was a mundane night for Marleau and the Sharks heading into the third period.

They carried a 2-1 lead against the Avs before Marleau’s magical period really kicked into gear. In less than eight minutes of game time, Marleau managed an out-of-left-field natural hat trick:

He didn’t stop there, either, as he also hit the four-goal mark for the first time in his career … and again, it was in the same period.

That’s his first four-goal game (and period, naturally). It’s been a long, long time since someone enjoyed a period like Marleau did:

Speaking of history, this massive night indeed places Marleau close to another impressive feat. He’s now at 497 career goals, three away from the elusive 500 mark.

To underscore how unexpected this outburst was, consider this: Marleau generated zero goals and one assist in his previous seven games.

As the Sharks enjoy an era fueled by the ascent of Brent Burns and the passing of the torch from the likes of Marleau and Joe Thornton to a group including Logan Couture and Martin Jones, it seems fitting that Marleau – a player receding from the team’s spotlight – totally stole the spotlight on Monday.

The Sharks probably won’t complain, either. He helped them seal their fifth consecutive win, putting San Jose in a strong position to regain the lead in the Pacific Division.

Pretty good stuff from a guy who rapidly faded from relevance after being stripped of the Sharks captaincy.

* – How dare you make Stanley Cup jokes on a happy occasion for Sharks fans?

Capitals assert their dominance once again, this time clobbering Hurricanes

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 03: Dmitry Orlov #9 of the Washington Capitals celebrates with teammates after assisting Justin Williams #14 on a goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs during the first period at Verizon Center on January 3, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
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The Washington Capitals lead the league in standings points … and maybe in swagger. At least, it feels that way lately.

Monday presented their latest display of power as the Carolina Hurricanes had no answer for the Capitals machine. Washington clobbered Carolina by a score of 6-1, but at least the Hurricanes can take comfort in joining a rather large group of teams who’ve been humbled by Braden Holtby & Co.

This makes the Capitals 11-0-1 during a dominant run; they’ve scored at least a point in all but one game since Dec. 21.

Honestly, you can dice up their hot streak in a variety of ways, as Washington’s been outstanding since at least early December. Margin of victory might be the most jaw-dropping way to illustrate Washington’s dominant run:

Yep, that’s something else.

Dmitry Orlov was one of the standouts of this latest win, scoring two goals. His strong night and flashes of brilliance prompted Alex Ovechkin to … maybe go a little over the top.

Hey, when you’re on fire like the Capitals have been lately, it’s probably tough to make some pretty bold comparisons.

Things might be turning around for Lundqvist (not so much for the Kings)

LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 13:  Marian Gaborik #12 of the Los Angeles Kings shakes hands with Henrik Lundqvist #30 of the New York Rangers after the Kings 3-2 double-overtime victory during Game Five of the 2014 Stanley Cup Final at Staples Center on June 13, 2014 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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As you likely know, the 2017 NHL All-Star Game is coming to Los Angeles this weekend. If the Kings don’t get it together, that might be the biggest hockey event for some time, as they’re currently on the outside looking in at the playoffs.

Monday presented what felt like a story of one cold streak continuing to fade away while the other only seems to get icier.

The positive side: Henrik Lundqvist might just be working through that slump.

The New York Rangers beat the Los Angeles Kings 3-2 on Monday, and it wasn’t a walk in the park for Lundqvist. He made 36 out of 38 stops, giving him a personal three-game winning streak in which he’s allowed just four total goals.

Some of those stops were pretty impressive, too:

(He also shut down a Jeff Carter breakaway, which is obviously no easy task.)

While Lundqvist is getting it together, the Kings might just be a little worried after dropping their fourth straight loss.

They’re at 48 points in 47 games, leaving them three points behind the West’s two wild card teams and two behind the Canucks.

The Kings have experience fighting through challenges like these, but they’ve also fallen short of getting into the West’s top eight, and their schedule is awfully road-heavy:

Tuesday: at Devils
Thursday: at Hurricanes
Tuesday, Jan. 31: at Coyotes
Wednesday, Feb. 1: vs. Avalanche
Saturday, Feb. 4: at Flyers
Sunday, Feb. 5: at Capitals
Tuesday, Feb. 7: at Lightning
Thursday, Feb. 9: at Panthers

Some of those opponents are struggling and the All-Star break might allow for a breather, but that could still be a problematic stretch, especially if the Kings are in a fragile state.

Then again, if they look at Lundqvist’s upward trend, they can note that fortunes can change pretty quickly in 2016-17.