Cup finals questions: How are the ‘Hawks different from 2010?


Three years ago, the Chicago Blackhawks snapped a 49-year drought by defeating the Philadelphia Flyers to win the Stanley Cup.

Many thought that championship would kickstart a potential dynasty, led by head coach Joel Quenneville and a core group featuring Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa, Brent Seabrook and Dave Bolland.

Fast forward to 2013, and not all’s gone according to plan.

Those coach and core guys are still in place, but the role players have been dramatically turned over.

As a result, the trip back to a Stanley Cup final took longer than expected (with a pair of first-round exits in between).

For brevity’s sake, let’s list the significant departures from the ’10 Cup-winning team:

Andrew Ladd, Kris Versteeg, Dustin Byfuglien, Antti Niemi, Troy Brouwer, Tomas Kopecky, Brian Campbell, Adam Burish, Ben Eager, John Madden.

The biggest challenge Chicago faced over the last three years was finding comparable depth players. Comparable, because finding equal ones would’ve been nearly impossible — Ladd, for example, was a third-liner during the Cup run.

This year, he was Winnipeg’s captain and leading scorer.

GM Stan Bownman deserves high praise for not just finding replacements, but grooming them from within.

Brandon Saad, Andrew Shaw, Bryan Bickell and Marcus Kruger are all Blackhawks draftees than have climbed through the ranks and are now paying dividends. Bickell in particular — a bit player during the ’10 run, he’s turned into a force this postseason, reprising the big-body Byfuglien role to tie for the team lead in goals, with eight.

The other significant change from the ’10 team is in goal, where Corey Crawford inherited Antti Niemi’s job and, after some shaky moments, has solidified his grasp on it.

Crawford’s postseason numbers — 1.74 GAA, .935 save percentage — are significantly better than the ones Niemi posted three years ago (.910 save percentage, 2.63 GAA). The Finnish goalie struggled at times and was largely seen as Chicago’s weak spot, whereas Crawford has been arguably the team’s most important player.

(On that note: Online sportsbook Bovada currently has Crawford as the favorite to win this year’s Conn Smythe trophy for playoffs MVP.)

The interesting thing about Chicago is despite all this turnover, the club’s identity has remained largely the same. Three years ago, Quenneville implemented a creative, attack-oriented, puck-possession offense — and today, it looks largely the same.

Forwards still have the liberty to criss-cross, weave and make plays; defensemen still have what seems like a constant green light to jump up and join the rush.

Toews is still Captain Serious, Kane is still a magician with the puck on his stick, and Keith can still skate like the wind.

In the end, that’s why the Blackhawks seem so similar — despite being so different.

For more 2013 Cup finals questions, click here.


Ducks’ Ryan Getzlaf out with upper body injury

DENVER, CO - APRIL 09:  Ryan Getzlaf #15 of the Anaheim Ducks awaits a face off against the Colorado Avalanche at Pepsi Center on April 9, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. the Ducks defeated the Avalanche 5-3. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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Anaheim Ducks forward Ryan Getzlaf was banged up in his team’s overtime loss to the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday night and it is bad enough to keep him out of the lineup entirely on Wednesday when they host the Nashville Predators.

The Ducks announced the news just before puck drop on Wednesday.

Getzlaf played only 10 minutes on Tuesday night before exiting the game.

The Ducks are also playing without goaltender Jonathan Bernier who was also injured on Tuesday, resulting in the team calling up Dustin Tokarski for Wednesday’s game. Tokarski will serve as the backup for John Gibson.

Getzlaf is definitely the bigger loss here for the Ducks on Wednesday, not only because Gibson was likely to start this game anyway, but because Getzlaf is one of their absolute best players.

Still one of the NHL’s top playmakers, Getzlaf has eight points (one goal, seven assists) in the Ducks’ first seven games. That includes a three assist game against the Vancouver Canucks on Sunday.


Video: Pastrnak penalized for illegal check to head

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Boston Bruins forward David Pastrnak has had a busy night on Wednesday.

After opening the scoring just 10 seconds into their game against the New York Rangers, he might have brought some unwanted attention upon himself when he was given a two-minute minor penalty for an illegal check to the head of Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi in the second period.

It all happened as Girardi was attempting to knock a puck down out of mid-air when Pastrnak came in with a crushing high hit. Girardi was shaken up as a result of the hit and briefly exited the game before later returning after missing a couple of shifts.

The Bruins ended up successfully killing the two minute penalty to Pastrnak, but quickly gave up a pair of goals later in the period to allow the Rangers to take a 3-2 lead.

The next question now is whether or not the NHL’s department of player safety steps in and issues any additional discipline. Any further discipline would seem like a real long-shot at this point.

Pastrnak still had a skate on the ice at the time of contact with Girardi, and while there was contact with Girardi’s head there was also contact with his chest as well. Girardi also returned to the game, and whether or not there is an injury does play a role into the decision.

Canadiens win again thanks to another thunderous Shea Weber goal

NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 26: Shea Weber #6 of the Montreal Canadiens celebrates this game winning powerplay goal at 17:03 of the third period against the New York Islanders at the Barclays Center on October 26, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.  The Canadiens defeated the Islanders 3-2.(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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For the second year in a row the Montreal Canadiens are storming out of the gate to open the season.

Thanks to their 3-2 win over the New York Islanders on Wednesday night the Canadiens are off to a 6-0-1 start and have the best record in the league through their first seven games.

Even though Wednesday’s game was only decided by a single goal, it was a particularly strong effort and perhaps one of their best of the young season. The biggest reason the game remained so close for so long was because of the play of Thomas Greiss in the Islanders crease during the second and third periods where Montreal had a commanding edge on the shot chart. This game could have easily shifted heavily in Montreal’s favor, and the fact it did not is a testament to the way Griess played.

But the star of the night was — once again — Canadiens defenseman Shea Weber as he continued his incredible start with his new team.

With less than three minutes to play in regulation, Weber broke a 2-2 tie with his third goal of the season on a shot that seems like it was probably close to breaking the sound barrier.

OK … maybe that is a slight exaggeration, but just look at this thing.

How do you stop that? Why would you want to get in front of it?

Weber also assisted on Philip Danault‘s goal earlier in the period. He now has nine points in his first seven games with the Canadiens.

As we saw a year ago with the Canadiens won their first nine games (and then missed the playoffs) a fast start doesn’t guarantee anything over the course of an 82-game season. But this year’s Canadiens should have something last year’s Canadiens didn’t have over the final five months of the season — Carey Price. These guys might be pretty good.

Video: Pastrnak scores 10 seconds into game vs. Rangers

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After getting blown out on Tuesday night and having to go with a rookie goalie making his first career start in New York on Wednesday, the Boston Bruins really needed a strong start against the Rangers.

That is exactly what they got when David Pastrnak gave them an early lead just 10 seconds into the game when he capitalized on a Nick Holden giveaway.

The play all started right off the opening faceoff when Holden gave the puck away to Zdeno Chara in the neutral zone. Chara quickly moved it along to Marchand who drew both Rangers defenders leaving Pastrnak wide open for a one-on-one chance against Henrik Lundqvist.

The result: Pastrnak’s fifth goal of the season and an early 1-0 lead.