2010 Stanley Cup finals: The Flyers' magical, improbable run

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Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Olli Jokinen.jpgHow many people – outside of the Philadelphia Flyers organization, maybe – thought that this team would be two wins away from winning a Cup after they barely eked their way into the playoffs by beating the New York Rangers in a shootout during the final game of the regular season? Seriously, when your postseason dreams rest on the eventual failure of Olli Jokinen, it’s hard to justifying any chest pounding.

Yet whether you call it destiny, magic or lucky bounces, the Flyers can call this a magical run even if they fall short of the “ultimate goal.”

They’ve had a ruthless killer instinct while holding a roach-like ability to ward off death. Overall, the team is a stunning 7-0 in games where they or their opponents could be eliminated. In other words, once the number “3” appeared on either side of a series score, the Flyers never lost.

Philadelphia is also generating some serious home cooking, as I discussed earlier. They’ve won seven games a row and are an outstanding 9-1 overall at the Wachovia Center.

After the jump, I’ll look at a few other reasons why this run has been “magical.”


Thumbnail image for Briere.jpgSurviving goalie injuries

To start the season, many people wondered if Ray Emery could make it happen for the Flyers. Now the question is if Emery will ever play hockey again.

Overall, the team’s faced a ridiculous amount of injuries in net. As great a find as Michael Leighton turned out to be, did anyone think that he’d work out so well for Philly? And who thought that the team could grind out a tough run to the playoffs on the strength of journeyman backup Brian Boucher?

The rise of Giroux and Leino

Those “in the know” were aware of Claude Giroux and Ville Leino, but there’s no guarantee that players with a pedigree will deliver right away like those two. Former European league stud Leino could very well be the all-time leading scorer among playoff rookies (he’s currently at 19 points) while Giroux is even better in his second playoff appearance with 21.

When you have two unproven players emerge unexpectedly, your team can jump to another level. That’s exactly what happened for the Flyers.

Danny Briere’s rebirth

Can you believe that Briere is the second highest scorer in the playoffs with 27 points, only one behind league leader Jonathan Toews? While the hockey world never really doubted his scoring ability, he’s one of the most frequent whipping boys in all of the NHL.

Briere is at the height of his offensive creativity … something that just about no one saw coming.

Whatever way you slice it, all these factors came together to help the Flyers put together a Cup finals run that few expected. If their record in elimination and long-odds situations is any indication, I wouldn’t count them out just yet.

Predators smash Sharks to get back in series

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After a dispiriting 1-0 goal allowed by Pekka Rinne, things were looking bleak for the Nashville Predators for a moment there.

Nashville’s developed into a resilient group, however, and they stormed back for a commanding 4-1 win to shrink San Jose’s series advantage to 2-1.

The Predators saw some of their big names come up huge as the series shifted from San Jose to Nashville.

Pekka Rinne looked sharp following that first goal (and didn’t allow another). Their goals came from James Neal, Colin Wilson, Filip Forsberg and captain Shea Weber.

Weber’s tally was the game-winner, and it was downright thunderous:

Another promising sign: after a struggling to a 2-for-31 clip in previous playoff games, the Predators’ power play went 2-for-5 in Game 3.

Overall, the Predators really couldn’t ask for much more from this win, especially if Colton Sissons is indeed OK after a scary crash into the Sharks’ net.

Things could get really interesting if Nashville manages to “hold serve” with another home win on Thursday.

Stars’ goalie carousel goes around again: Lehtonen replaces Niemi

Dallas Stars goalie Antti Niemi (31) subs in for goalie Kari Lehtonen (32) during the third period of an NHL hockey game, Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2015, in Dallas. The Stars won 6-5. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
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It’s pretty tough not to make jokes about the Dallas Stars spending $10.4 million on their goalies at times like these, even if Dallas’ defense should shoulder plenty of blame.

After Kari Lehtonen was pulled from a Game 2 loss, the St. Louis Blues chased Antti Niemi early in the second period of Game 3 after Niemi allowed three goals on 12 shots.

Troy Brouwer‘s 3-1 goal was enough for Lindy Ruff to give Niemi the hook:

Unfortunately for the Stars, Lehtonen got off to a slow start as well, allowing an immediate Vladimir Tarasenko goal.

The Blues are now 4-1 and the Stars are searching for answers … and probably wishing Tyler Seguin was around to help them out-score their problems.

Islanders believe Boyle should be suspended for hit before OT goal

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Thomas Hickey is involved in a controversial hit, yet the greater debate may revolve around the one he received rather than the one he delivered.

In the second period, the New York Islanders defenseman connected for a thunderous hit on Tampa Bay Lightning forward Jonathan Drouin, which sidelined Drouin for a chunk of Game 3.

Many believe that hit was legal:

The Islanders are upset about the Brian Boyle hit on Hickey in overtime, which came moments before Boyle scored the game-winning goal. You can see the full sequence here, with the hit happening around the 50-second mark:

Islanders head coach Jack Capuano believes that it was a suspension-worthy hit.

You’re not going to believe this, but the Lightning disagree.

Boyle clearly didn’t receive a penalty on that sequence, yet one would imagine that the league will at least take a look at that hit.

Lightning take dramatic OT win vs. Islanders, go up 2-1 in series

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Brian Boyle was part of the fight before Game 3 even started … and then he ended it in overtime.

In a Tampa Bay Lightning win in which they just kept rolling with the New York Islanders’ punches, it only seems fitting that Boyle battled to land a big hit and then score the clinching goal for a 5-4 overtime victory.

This gives the Lightning a 2-1 series lead heading into Game 4.

Also fitting? Boyle landed a big hit on Thomas Hickey, the guy who sidelined Jonathan Drouin for a chunk of this contest.

That sequence prompted a brief goal review, but it ultimately stood:

(Was that Boyle hit on Hickey dirty, by the way?)

Drama was in the air from the beginning, yet Drouin really stole the show when he came back from what some believe was a concussion to assist on Nikita Kucherov‘s last-minute goal, which sent the game to overtime.

In some ways, this win feels like a microcosm of the Lightning’s season. They keep getting hit in the mouth with injuries and near-injuries, yet they just won’t stay down.

The Islanders saw three leads disappear in this contest, but one would think that they won’t roll over, either.