The scary, speedy, mighty Chicago Blackhawks are facing the poor, overmatched Philadelphia Flyers in the Stanley Cup Finals. Yeah, ok!. These ‘Hawks are very good, but let’s cut them down a bit. They’re not superhuman, and they should not be feared. Fear is often based on the unknown. We don’t know these ‘Hawks very well, but we can see their path of destruction as they tore apart the Western Conference. Well, it’s time to put some fears to rest, and learn about who these guys are that play in the Windy City.
Jonathan Toews – The Captain, their leader, the top scorer in these playoffs. He’s everything you could want in a forward. He’s a solid two way player than put the puck in the net, or dish it off to his teammates. He plays in every situation, and is dangerous every time he’s on the ice. Like Richards, he’s the backbone of this team. Other guys can step up, but the ‘Hawks go as he goes.
Patrick Kane – The 1st overall pick in ’07, and he’s living up to expectations. He led Chicago in scoring during the regular season, and has kept it going in the playoffs. He’s third in playoff scoring behind Toews and our own Mike Richards. Kane can flat out fly on the ice, and possesses a dangerous shot. While his goal scoring pace has slowed down a bit (0 goals in West Finals), you can’t expect him to go cold for too long.
Dustin Byfuglian – If you don’t already know, it’s pronounced Bufflin. He’s big, he’s strong, he’s a force in front of the net. Not a ton of goals in the regular season, but he’s caught fire when it matters most. Normally a D-man, he’s versatile enough to play wing, on the Toews-Kane line. He gets in front of the net, and it is nearly impossible to remove him legally. Not only can he redirect shots from anywhere, he’s shown some good vision by knowing when to drift away from the net and get open for a one-timer from the slot. However, I think he’s getting a bit too much respect. There’s a reason he’s not normally known as a scorer. He contributed nothing in the first series against Nashville, a very defense oriented team (obviously made up for it against Vancouver and San Jose). He seems to be a bit streaky, and I have a few idea’s for how the Flyers can stop him (series preview tomorrow).
Marian Hossa – Yes, it’s the guy that keeps going to new teams, going to the finals, and losing. A proven goal scorer EVERYWHERE he’s gone. He was injured for part of the season, but came back to 51 points in 57 games. His 11 points in 16 playoff games are pretty good too. He’s been criticized for not scoring enough goals (2) , but has been praised for doing a lot of the little things to help his team win. Still, knowing his history, and his ability, he cannot be ignored. He’s one of very few wingers than can succeed without a good center. Unfortunately for us, he’s got one.
Patrick Sharp – The former Flyers prospect who never panned out. He was fast, he was feisty, but he just didn’t score that much. A change of scenery has allowed him to blossom. He’s scored at least 20 goals each season since playing in Chicago full-time. So now he’s become exactly what the Flyers thought he would when they drafted him. But now he’s got new motivation: vengeance. He’s tied for second on the team in goals, behind only Byfuglian.
Duncan Keith- He had more points during the regular season than Toews, finishing second to Kane on the team. As much of a threat as he is offensively, he’s also a beast on defense. Consistently matched up against the oppositions top players, he’s managed to shut down some of the biggest names in hockey. He’s a Norris Trophy finalist, and will be very difficult to deal with. The Flyers haven’t faced anyone close to as good as this guy. He’s quick, and smart, and will not make many (or any) mistakes. If you get a scoring chance when he’s on the ice, you’d better bury it, because it won’t happen often.
Brian Campbell – We remember this guy from his days with the Sabres. Another defenseman than can fly and move the puck up quickly. He knows when to pick his spots, and he won’t hesitate to jump up on the play. He came back from injury at the start of the playoffs, and has not contributed as much during these playoffs offensively. But there’s always that threat, and you can’t ignore him.
Antti Niemi – Finally, we get to their backstopper. All season long, Niemi battled with Huet to determine who would be the guy headed into the playoffs. Both were criticized as the weakest link on a strong team. But since getting the nod down the stretch and in the playoffs, he’s performed very well. He’s near the top in every stat amongst goalies in the playoffs. More importantly, his team is in the freaking Finals. You don’t go this far with crappy goaltending. It’s no coincidence that the Flyers and ‘Hawks have the stingiest defense in the playoffs. While a lot of it is team effort, we can’t discount what the man in the mask has done.
These are mostly the big names, but it’s not just about these guys. When you look at the Flyers, who will the experts talk about? Richards, Gagne, Giroux, Briere, Carter, Leighton, Pronger, and Timonen. But we know about the role players, the guys who do all of the dirty work. Lappy, Betts, Carle, Coburn. Chicago has plenty of guys that contribute that I didn’t talk about. It’s not just about the big names mentioned above, it’s about everyone. And if we’re going to win the Cup, we gotta deal with all of them.
So, like I said. There is nothing to fear. We might win, we might lose. But will put up one hell of a fight. We know what it will take. Lavy will have the team up to speed on everything they need to know. This is by far the best team the Flyers have faced, but it’s doable. I’ll have a preview blog up tomorrow, and will try to have something motivational on Saturday.
Also, check out http://www.blogtalkradio.com/rinksiderants tonight at 9:00. Jeff Bartl from BlackhawkUp.com and I will be guests on the show. Pretty sure you can guess what we’re going to be talking about. Please check it out. It’s short, it’s fun, and it’s a good way to start the night before heading out for Thirsty Thursdays.
Thanks for reading!
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