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.

Video: Canucks escape Arizona with another win for the moms

at Pepsi Center on February 9, 2016 in Denver, Colorado.
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With their mothers traveling on the road trip — Matt Bartkowski‘s mom, Beth, has become a cult hero in Vancouver after another priceless media interview — the Canucks took back-to-back wins, moving them right back into the thick of the playoff fight in the Western Conference.

After beating the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday, the Canucks held on for the 2-1 victory in Arizona on Wednesday, despite being without Brandon Sutter (broken jaw), Alex Edler (broken fibula) and Derek Dorsett, who was scratched from the lineup due to illness, as per Sportsnet’s Dan Murphy.

It was only a few days ago, following a home loss to the Calgary Flames, that it felt like the Canucks’ playoff hopes were essentially dashed. They fielded their healthiest lineup in months and couldn’t score and couldn’t win.

Two quick wins later, they’re two points out of a Wild Card spot in the West, despite getting outshot in Arizona.

Up by a goal in the third period, defenseman Alex Biega played the hero, pulling the puck out of the crease after it got by Ryan Miller on a backhand shot from Kyle Chipchura, maintaining Vancouver’s lead.

Phaneuf burned on Zetterberg game-winner in Sens debut

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A day after getting traded out of Toronto, Dion Phaneuf made his Ottawa Senators debut.

It ended with a 3-1 road loss for the Senators, and Phaneuf getting burned by Henrik Zetterberg on the eventual game winner early in the third period.

Zetterberg picked up the puck near the Ottawa blue line, beat Phaneuf to the outside, slipped the puck under the stick of the Sens’ newest blue liner and quickly roofed his shot on Craig Anderson.

“He made a real good play and you’ve got to give credit when credit is due,” Phaneuf told the Ottawa Sun.

“I put my stick there, he put (the puck) under and he made a good shot. I’ve got to have a better stick in that situation, but you’ve got to give him credit for that play.”

Phaneuf finished the night with a minus-one rating and two hits in almost 22 minutes of ice time, putting him second among Sens defensemen in that category behind Erik Karlsson, who played a whopping 33:30.

Phaneuf drilled Red Wings defenseman Danny DeKeyser with a hard slap shot early in the third period.

DeKeyser played one more shift — all of 10 seconds — before exiting the game.

Video: Rangers shut out red-hot Sidney Crosby and the Penguins

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The New York Rangers are likely too far behind the Washington Capitals to take any legitimate run at the Atlantic Division down the stretch.

But winners now of four straight, the Rangers have opened up a bit of a gap between them and other Eastern Conference teams in the playoff race. New York scored a 3-0 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins, winners in six of their last seven games, on Wednesday.

In the process, they held a red-hot Sidney Crosby off the score sheet, which has been a difficult, sometimes impossible task for opposing teams since about the middle of December. He entered this game with a seven-game scoring streak.

(In fact, New York held No. 87 to without a shot on goal in the entire game.)

Henrik Lundqvist stopped all 34 shots he faced for the shutout.

Kevin Hayes gave the Rangers the lead in the first period, before Dominic Moore and Jesper Fast put the game away in the third.

Pittsburgh remains in the second Wild Card spot in the East. The Rangers now move three points clear of the rival Islanders for second in the Metropolitan.

Video: Wideman hearing ‘a tricky case’ as NHLPA hopes to get 20-game suspension reduced

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There is no certain timeline for when NHL commissioner Gary Bettman might rule on Dennis Wideman‘s appeal, according to a report from hockey insider Darren Dreger on NBCSN, as the Calgary Flames defenseman hopes to get his 20-game ban for hitting linesman Don Henderson reduced.

“Now, ultimately what they’re hoping from a Wideman perspective and the Players’ Association is that commissioner Gary Bettman will rule and he will reduce the number of games suspended down from 20,” said Dreger during a segment on NBCSN.

“Is he going to reduce it by three games? Five games seems a bit of a stretch. And when might he do that? There’s no timeline on this.”