By: Sean Waters (Guest Contributor)
Now that the Conference Championships are complete the fight for the Stanley Cup is down to two, the Chicago Blackhawks and the Philadelphia Flyers. And to be completely honest, this is a match up that very few had at the beginning of these playoffs. Surprisingly this creates a match-up between two big market teams who have not won a Stanley Cup in over thirty years. Chicago’s last Stanley Cup victory came 47 seasons ago (the longest of all teams in the NHL) and Philadelphia’s came 33 seasons ago. Needless to say, this match-up is getting a lot of attention due to this. Let’s take a look at both of these teams and how they got here.
The Chicago Blackhawks finished the regular season with a record of 52-22-8 (112 Points) which was good enough for second in the west. They were a dominate team at home winning 70% of the game they played in Chicago. They have flipped the switch in the playoffs by only losing a single game on the road so far. The Blackhawks for the most part have gotten through the first three rounds fairly easy. In the first round they got matched up against the Nashville Predators. Chicago struggled in the first three games of that series being out scored 8 to 4 but they took games four, five, and six to take the series. In the second round, they took on the Vancouver Canucks. Like the first series, Chicago lost game one in an embarrassing fashion. Chicago goes on to score 16 goals in their next three games. Chicago finishes this series in six with another road victory. In the Conference Finals, Chicago faced off against the number one seeded Sharks of San Jose. Chicago took quick advantage of this series winning games one and two on San Jose ice. They came home to Chicago and finished San Jose in a four game sweep.
These playoffs for the Blackhawks have been lead by the amazing duel of Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp and Patrick Kane. These players have recorded seven goals so far and are one/two/three in points on their team. Another stand out for the Blackhawks has been Dustin Byfuglien who has recorded eight goals but four of those coming in game winning situations. Goalie, Antti Niemi, has been amazing so far, starting every game in the playoffs up to this point. He has a record of 12-4 and is only giving up 2.33 goals per game. With this his save percentage a strong .921 and should be good enough as long as Chicago continues to score like they have. One thing that the stats don’t show is the toughness of the Blackhawks. I guess at this point if you are questioning this teams toughness, well, go talk to Duncan Keith who lost seven teeth when he was hit in the face by a puck in game four against San Jose. He was back in the game in six minutes. Chicago is a team that can beat you in many different ways and the combination of Toews and Kane is yet to be stopped. The big question is can they be stopped.
The Philadelphia Flyers at the beginning of the season were picked to be one of the front-runners in the eastern conference. For the most part, the Flyers had a very disappointing regular season finishing with a record of 41-35-6 (88 points). They backed their way into the playoffs on the last night of the season in a shootout win against the Rangers. They received the seven seed and played the New Jersey Devils in the first round. The Flyers rode their high off the shootout win playing very good defensive hockey only allowing four goals in their four victories against the Devils. Philadelphia beats New Jersey in five and then squared off against the three seeded Boston Bruins. This is a series that will go down in history with Boston going up 3-0 on Philadelphia. The Flyers then win game four in Overtime, win game five by shutting Boston out, changing goalies in game six and winning that 2-1, and then going down 3-0 in game seven to come back and win 4 to 3. This marked only the fourth time in sports that a team had come back from 3-0 to win the series. But Philadelphia wasn’t done just yet, they still believed that there was work to be done. They then took on the 8th seeded Montreal Canadiens. Philadelphia made sure not to fall behind in this series by taking games one and two at home in ways of shutouts. The Flyers shutout the Canadiens one more time in this series and ended up winning it in five on their home ice.
Philadelphia has made history in these playoffs already, but to them it means nothing unless they are holding the Cup in the end. This run so far for this team has been an amazing team effort. Many players are just stepping up at the right times. Danny Briere, Mike Richards, Claude Giroux, and Simon Gagne just to name a few, all of which have six or more goals so far in the playoffs. Players like Chris Pronger and Matt Carle have not only been outstanding on the defensive side they have also done a great job on the offensive side each recorded 10 assists so far. The amazing thing is the job that Michael Leighton has done since taking over as goalie half way through the Boston series. Leighton has posted a record of 6-1 and is only giving up 1.45 goals per game. With this of those seven games, three of them have been shutouts. He has only given up 11 goals in 210 attempts giving him a .948 save percentage so far for these playoffs. The big thing with this team is that they are fighters that are not giving up. It is the only reason they are here at this point. No matter how bad the odds got, they still believed. If the Flyers win the Stanley Cup, this will be the number one reason why.
Points to the Series:
If this is a high scoring series, it will go to the Blackhawks. With this Philadelphia needs to find a way of taking out Chicago’s major scores (Kane, Sharp, and Toews). This is something that is going to be very tough seeing that Nashville, Vancouver, and San Jose all failed on this task. With this Leighton needs to be as sharp has he has been throughout the last couple of weeks.
If this is a low scoring series, it will go to the Flyers. The reason why I’m saying this is because throughout the playoffs the games that Chicago is winning are the high scoring ones. With this, the four games that Chicago was held to one goal, they have lost all four. Games in which Chicago scores more then two goals, they are so far 12-0 in the playoffs On the other hand, games that have had three or less goals in these playoffs, Philadelphia is 5-0 (Philadelphia has held its opponent to one or less goals nine times so far in these playoffs). They key for Philadelphia is that they don’t want to get into high scoring affairs.
Philadelphia and Chicago only faced off against each other one time this season. Chicago played with their now “backup” goalie (Huet) and lost 3-2 in Philadelphia.
Philadelphia will win game one.
Chicago will win game two.
Chicago will win game three.
Philadelphia will win game four.
Chicago will win game five.
Chicago will win game six.
Chicago wins in 6 – the combination of Kane and Toews is going to be too much for the Flyers. They will be able to fight it well and make a very entertaining series but in the end it is going to be too much offense to defend.
Saturday, May 29 at Chicago, 7 p.m.
Monday, May 31 at Chicago, 7 p.m.
Wednesday, June 2 at Philadelphia, 7 p.m.
Friday, June 4 at Philadelphia, 7 p.m.
*Sunday, June 6 at Chicago, 7 p.m.
*Wednesday, June 9 at Philadelphia, 7 p.m.
*Friday, June 11 at Chicago, 7 p.m.
* = If Necessary