Flyers

That’s all she wrote…

a month of competition, thousands of minutes of hockey played and countless highlight reel plays the Stanley Cup was decided in one of the most anti-climactic moments in recent sport history.

Patrick Kane danced along the side boards, drove to the net and put a bad angled shot through Michael Leighton but the puck lodged itself into the side of the net and the celebration was delayed by the confusion. It was an awkward moment as the Chicago coaching staff didn’t celebrate but their team swarmed the goal scorer as he skated full length celebrating his goal. Moments later it was confirmed: The Chicago Blackhawks were the 2010 Stanley Cup Champions.

With that goal the dream came to fruition for the Chicago Blackhawks, who had gone 49 years without a championship, and in that same moment the come-back kid Philadelphia Flyers were dealt a final, crushing blow in what had almost been a Cinderella-like playoffs.

When Scotty Hartnell scored to take the game to overtime with under five-minutes left, I high-fived my friends and cried out “Flyers in Seven,” maybe it was my premature excitement that cost the boys the cup but it meant that I had failed to get a series correct since the second round.

Jonathan Toews was deservedly awarded to the Conn Smyth trophy, an award that almost certainly would have gone to Chris Pronger if his team had pulled off another come from behind victory, and the famously serious captain finally cracked a smile.

Here are some final thoughts on the Stanley Cup Finals and the 2010 Playoffs:

  • Love him or hate him, Chris Pronger made the 2010 playoff’s more fun than usual; Whether it was his antics in stealing the game puck after Chicago wins, or his quick quips to the media throughout, he gave the fans something that we haven’t seen since Jeremy Roenick was in the playoffs.
  • ith 28 Canadians playing in the Stanley Cup final last night and another 11 that were not dressed, it is safe to say that Canada is on top of the Hockey world. As I pointed out after round one, it just doesn’t seem that European players in the NHL have that desire or passion to go after the Cup like their North American counterparts.
  • This year marks another season that the Stanley Cup has gone south of the border and it has now been too many years since a Canadian team has lifted hockey’s holy grail. The Montreal Canadiens almost ended the drought but only time will tell when the Stanley Cup will come home next. Leafs in 2011 anyone? You heard it here first!
  • Get ready for some outrageous contract signings in this offseason. Players like Jaroslav Halak, Dustin Byfuglien and need another younger player all had outstanding playoff performances and will look to cash in on their new found stardom.
  • This year’s Stanley Cup finals may have been short on goaltending excellence but made up for it with some of the best offensive battles in recent memory. Not being a goalie, I don’t mind seeing games finish with goals galore and this year’ finals should help grow the game down south, with some of the most exciting hockey in years.
  • Last but not least, Jonathan Toews showed a lot of class last night as he passed the Cup straight to Marian Hossa after lifting the cup himself. Hossa was trying for his third straight year to win the Stanley Cup and it was a touching moment as all the gathered Blackhawk players chanted his name.

Playoff Awards

Breakout Player – Although the Canadiens didn’t hoist the cup, it was definitely a coming out party for Jaroslav Halak. He posted a neat 2.55 GAA and led all goalies with a .923 save percentage.

Biggest Disappointment – Although Ilya Kovulchuk was an utter failure for New Jersey and helped them flop, the biggest disappointment in the playoffs goes to Washington Capital’s forward Alex Ovechkin. The talismanic forward failed to drive his team forward and elimination in the first round is unacceptable.

Top Defencemen – Chris Pronger was a beast throughout the playoffs and often played more than half of most games in the 2010 playoffs. The Canadian battled not only the ice but with the media storm around his team, and once again he threw an underachieving team on his back and carried them deep into the playoffs.

Top Forward – Hard to argue against the numbers Jonathan Toews put up throughout the playoffs but I am going to and put it out there that Daniel Briere was the top forward in this year’s playoffs. The small forward had 12 goals and 18 assists to give him the playoff point lead at 30 points. We finally saw his talent come to the forefront and he was a catalyst for the Flyers. He also added a +9 plus/minus throughout the playoffs.

Top Goalie – Sure he let a terrible goal in to allow the Chicago Blackhawks to hoist the cup but Michael Leighton was by far the best goalie in the playoffs. Registering 3 shutouts in the last series allowed the Flyers to get as close as they did this year and the kid finished with a GAA 2.46 of and a .916 save percentage.

With the playoffs completed, I feel compelled to share my wonderful prediction record. After going 6/8 in the first round, I fell to bits and failed to keep up the pace. I finished with an 8/15 record, good enough for a 53% record but nothing to phone home about.

Now the playoffs are finished and the rest of the teams have joined Toronto on the Golf Course only one question remains: Taylor or Tyler

Henry Whitfield is an avid sports fan who covers everything and anything in the sports world, while focusing on hockey and football. Follow him on twitter @HenryWhitfield.

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Home Sweet Home…

The Philadelphia Flyers headed home after Game 2 knowing they were in danger of letting this series slip away.

Hockey Pundits were claiming the Flyers couldn’t handle the wonder kids Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, let alone find an answer to the unstoppable force of Dustin Byfuglien.

Two games later and the Flyers now sit two games apiece with the Chicago Blackhawks, and the kids from Chicago look like they have no answer for the hard-hitting, aggressive, in your face play of the Philadelphia Flyers.

As predicted, Chris Pronger has been the catalyst for this team’s success and has completely shut down the high-powered, speedy offence that the Chicago Blackhawks bring to the table.

  • All we hear about is Chris Pronger; well it’s his defensive partner that should get some praise too. Matt Carle is the other half to the best shutdown player in the NHL today and most wouldn’t be able to name him as Pronger’s defensive partner. He has logged an average of 25:39 minutes/game and has 13 points with a plus/minus of +10.
  • Speaking of Chris Pronger, I called him a monster after game one and two and he’s continued to dominate this series. Whether it’s in the media getting under the skin of the Chicago players of manhandling their small forwards, Pronger has been all over this Blackhawks team. After going posting a plus/minus of +4 in game four, he is now +7 in this series. Not bad for a guy that plays almost half of every game.
  • After being quiet so far this series Flyers Captain Mike Richards finally woke up and played like the player he can be; Picked up the opening goal on a smart, heads-up play and looked dangerous all night. If the Flyers want to keep the momentum going in Chicago they need Richards to keep his form.

  • From a captain leading by example to a captain that has gone missing. Jonathan Toews has started to vanish in this series and topped it off missing an open cage with just minutes remaining in the game. The top line produced just one assist and looked pretty useless out there.

So far both teams have cemented their place at home but this is essentially a best of three series with two of the games in Chicago. Can the Flyers break down the Madhouse on Madison or will Chicago hold strong and break the hearts of Flyers fans all over.

My prediction, albeit mocked by all when made, of the Flyers winning in seven games still looks good but I’m worried they may pull it off in six.

That is for now, check later for breakdown of the QMJHL draft day and the rest of my Stanley Cup analysis.

Henry Whitfield is an avid sports fan who covers everything and anything in the sports world, while focusing on hockey and football. Follow him on twitter @HenryWhitfield.

Heading Back To Broad Street…

When the Flyers squeezed into the playoffs just one month ago, they hoped but far from expect to be playing in the Stanley Cup finals.

On Thursday the two teams head back to Philadelphia, where the Flyers find themselves in a two game hole against a high-flying Chicago Blackhawks team. After a goal bonanza in game one, the two teams settled down and put together a defensive battle in game two that saw the Blackhawks take a 2-1 win.

The Blackhawks have won seven straight games on the road and will look to sweep for consecutive rounds when they arrive in Philadelphia.

Here are some thoughts after the first two games:

  • The Philadelphia Flyers couldn’t be luckier in the long-term; they have a number of solid goaltending options with Michael Leighton and Brian Boucher currently battling it out for the starter’s job in the next game. After another strong display by Leighton, I would tip him to start Game 3.
  • Daniel Carcillo got back to his antagonizing ways in Game 2 (So much so that my friend watching with me commented: I didn’t realise Avery played for the Flyers…) and look for more of the same going forward; he was able to get under the skin of Ben Eager and could be effective in knocking the young, inexperienced Chicago players off their game.
  • Chris Pronger is a animal beast monster. Looking at footage from the first two games, he has manhandled Byfuglien and that’s shown up on the score board as the influential winger has 1 points so far this series and has a  -2 +/- so far this series.
  • I don’t think that Jeff Carter has fully recovered from the injury that almost knocked him out of the Olympics and his choice to go to Vancouver may cost his team. He has been a shadow of his normal crafty self and has only 4 goals and 2 assists, with a -2 +/- this post season.
  • To be a champion you need to win when you don’t play well and that is exactly what Chicago did in game 1. They didn’t play solid defensively but still managed to out-gun the Flyers and that’s a scary thought.
  • Another BIG THUMBS UP to Chris Pronger for doing whatever he can to get an edge in the psychological warfare of the playoffs. In a move that would make Jeremy Roenick proud, after both games he picked up the game puck before any Blackhawk could get near it. Now I realise you purists out there think this is a jerk move, but it’s a great way to get under the skin of a young Blackhawk team that will surely look to get back at him and might even take a penalty or two. So good on you Pronger, keep doing what you do!

Finally: Don’t count out the Broad Street Bullies.

Remember when these same Flyers had been written off after going down three games to none against the Bruins in the first round?

How about when all the pundits were saying there was ‘no chance’ those Flyers could compete with the great Halak and the blocked shot champs in Montreal?

This Philadelphia Flyers team has aged a number of seasons in this playoff stretch and they’ve already had to battle for their lives a number of times. I wouldn’t count them out just yet and look for some rough, wild and hard-hitting Flyer’s hockey in game four back at the Wachovia center.

Sticking by my prediction: Flyers winning in seven.

Henry Whitfield is an avid sports fan who covers everything and anything in the sports world, while focusing on hockey and football. Follow him on twitter @HenryWhitfield.