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.

Kariya and Selanne, one of NHL’s most dominant duos, enter Hall of Fame together

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Paul Kariya probably had to wait a couple of years longer than he should have to get his induction into the Hall of Fame, but it was at least fitting that the wait allowed him to enter alongside his long-time running mate, Teemu Selanne.

Both players were among the class of seven inducted into the Hall of Fame on Monday. They spent several years alongside one another in Anaheim (plus one year in Colorado) and were one of the most lethal offensive duos the NHL has ever seen.

The magic they were able to work on the ice together was simply incredible, and at times jaw-dropping.

For example…

Selanne said on Monday that he played some of his best years in the NHL alongside Kariya, while added that he would not be getting the call without his years alongside Selanne.

Their production together can not be understated.

Between the 1995-96 and 2000-01 seasons, the years they spent together in Anaheim, 35 percent of the Ducks goals were scored by one of those two players.

What is most incredible about that production is that Kariya only played in 395 out of 492 games due to injury, while Selanne only played in 382 after being acquired in a mid-season trade in 1995 and then traded during the 2001 season.

While Selanne had the ultimate combination of sustained dominance and longevity in his career to make him one of the NHL’s all-time leading goal scorers and point producers, Kariya’s career came to an unfortunate and premature end due to concussion issues. While his final stat line may not stack up among the NHL’s all-time greats, he was one of the league’s most dominant offensive players for more than a decade.

Kariya said on Monday that it took him a year after his retirement to feel normal again, but that he is now no longer having headaches.

He also mentioned that while the NHL seems to be heading in the right direction when it comes to player safety, but that targeted head shots have no place in the game and he would like to see them eliminated.

Yakupov becomes UFA after Blues don’t extend qualifying offer

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Nail Yakupov, the first overall draft pick only five years ago, has become an unrestricted free agent.

The 23-year-old winger was not extended a qualifying offer by the St. Louis Blues, thus providing him UFA status. He played 40 games for the Blues in 2016-17, battling a knee injury and scoring just three goals.

Yakupov wants to remain in the NHL, saying in May he has zero plans to return to Russia. It’s possible he could re-sign with the Blues at a lower salary than his qualifying offer would’ve been.

If not, there are 30 other teams he can speak with now.

Yakupov is currently in the conversation with Alexandre Daigle and Patrik Stefan in terms of biggest first overall busts in NHL history.

The Blues did extend qualifying offers to five players: defensemen Colton Parayko and Petteri Lindbohm, forwards Magnus Paajarvi and Oskar Sundqvist, and goalie Jordan Binnington.

‘Hawks sign Forsberg, who should be Crawford’s new backup

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Anton Forsberg, the former Columbus goalie Chicago acquired in the Brandon Saad-for-Artemi Panarin blockbuster, has signed a two-year extension with the ‘Hawks.

Forsberg, 24, came to North America in the ’13-14 campaign and has spent most of his time with Columbus’ AHL affiliate. He helped the club capture the Calder Cup in 2016, and that performance was part of the reason Chicago GM Stan Bowman went out and acquired him.

In the aftermath, Bowman said Forsberg would get the “first crack” at the No. 2 gig behind Corey Crawford. The ‘Hawks have been without a backup since sending Scott Darling to Carolina.

While Forsberg is the favorite for the gig, he’s not a lock. He only has 10 games of NHL experience — a pretty small sample size — and lost out on a similar opportunity with Columbus. Forsberg and Joonas Korpisalo were battling to be Sergei Bobrovsky‘s understudy, with Korpisalo eventually winning out.

In other Chicago news, the club gave depth forward Tomas Jurco a one-year extension today. Jurco was acquired from Detroit at last year’s trade deadline and appeared in 13 games for the ‘Hawks, scoring one goal. He didn’t dress for the club’s first-round playoff sweep at the hands of Nashville.

No word yet on financials for either guy.

Wild extend d-man Olofsson — two years, $1.45 million

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Gustav Olofsson, the Minnesota defenseman taken in the second round of the ’13 draft, has signed a two-year, $1.45 million extension, per the Star-Tribune.

Olofsson was a restricted free agent, having just wrapped his entry-level contract. This new deal will pay him $725,000 per season and, importantly, it’s of the one-way variety.

The Star-Tribune reports Olofsson is expected to play in the Wild’s top-six defense next season, especially since GM Chuck Fletcher appears primed to trade one of Jonas Brodin, Marco Scandella or Matt Dumba. Fletcher needs cap space to finalize new deals for RFA forwards Nino Niederreiter and Mikael Granlund.

Speaking of contracts, the Wild opted against making a qualifying offer for d-man Christian Folin. This means he’ll be able to test free agency, though it’s reported Minnesota might try to re-negotiate with him as a UFA.