Sunday, May 30, 2010

Game 1 In The Books - Blackhawks 6 - Flyers 5

Here's my random thoughts about last night's Stanley Cup Finals Game 1...

Midway through the first period I thought - if things keep up this way, the final score will be 7-6 and I have no idea who will win. Seriously, no kidding that's why I thought. Things did basically keep up that way and I wasn't far off the mark.

It only shows how little confidence the Blackhawks have in Christobel Huet that Antti Niemi was still in the Chicago net to get the victory. It also once again just resoundingly screams what a waste of $5.5M of Salary Cap Space, Hut's contract is for Chicago. As a Capitals fan I'd like to once again say thank you for the self-discipline of the Caps Management and Ownership and for Jose Theodore, these past two seasons.

Aren't the playoffs, especially when your big players need to show up and deliver big? Flyers: Richards-Carter-Gagne combined for no goals, no assists and a +/- of (-7). Not to be outdone for the Blackhawks: Kane-Toews-Byfuglien combined for zero goals, zero points and +/- of (-9). I'd say this points to a couple of things: a) both the Flyers and the Blackhawks have good coaching staffs and used the time between series to watch a fair amount of video and come up with ways to modulate the impact of the other teams' "big guns" and b) the guys assigned to keep the other teams "big guns" neutralized executed well. That said my feeling is this level of non-production will not continue through the rest of the series and one important factor for who ever wins the series will be that they will make counteracting adjustments faster than the loosing team can react to. Given last night's game it's probably going to be much more about being a "coach's series" than being about a "goaltender's series/duel" - just a hunch on my part.

Don't get me wrong, right now I'd rather be the Blackhawks and up 1-0 in the series, but there's a lot of good things the Flyers have to build on, and I can't believe that Chicago was sitting in their locker room after the game thinking it was going to be easy for them to win their first Cup since 1961. Can't see the Blackhawks sweeping this series right now.

It will be interesting to see who Peter Laviolette starts in goal for game two. Brian Boucher was clearly the best goaltender who played last night, but Leighton wasn't really the problem for the Flyers and it was really his first bad game since he took over for Boucher in the playoffs. No doubt Niemi will be in goal for Chicago and the Hawks will be hoping he has what has become his usual stellar coming back from a bad outing game in game 2. To some degree what happens there with Niemi in game two will drive the amount of swagger the Hawks have when they travel to Philly for game 3 and 4.

32:21 of Ice Time is probably too much for Philly to play Chris Pronger against the Blackhawks, but I'm not sure what choice they have. I guess if they could get it so Lukas Krajicek skated 10-12 minutes in the game and/or Ryan Parent skated 5-10 minutes in a game vice 7:03 and 00:41, they might be able to dial Pronger's ice time back to something on the order of 27 minutes. Seriously, if the game had gone to Overtime it's very conceivable Pronger could have been asked to play 40 minutes and that likely just won't work against the Blackhawks who are so deep. This is something that will likely be a key thing to watch the rest of this series.

I won't make any prediction on who will win but after last night's game it's hard for me to feel the Series won't be at least six (6) games long.

No Flyer penalties last night --- really? Well Laviolette had to be happy, even if the 22,000+ referees in United Center were slightly incredulous at times.

Second star of the game Marian Hossa --- really? Hossa played a good game but in a game where 11 goals are scored the fact that the second star of the game is a guy who didn't score a goal but had two (2) assists in 18:14 TOI just shows how distributed the Chicago offense was last night. Personally, nothing against Hoss, but I would have given the second star to Dave Boland for his unassisted short hand goal, but I always feel a "shortie" provides a team with a bunch of good karma and momentum and tend to overvalue their impact on a game.

Next game tomorrow in Chicago.

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