The NHL playoffs have been exciting for many cities, but only two will be give the chance to host the Stanley Cup for the next year. The Chicago Blackhawks and the Philadelphia Flyers will duke it out starting May 29, 2010 at 8 P.M. for an opportunity to feed their respective cities a championship.
The Blackhawks haven’t won a title since 1961, when they were on only six teams, and the Flyers haven’t won since back-to-back titles in 1974-75. In short, the team that wins this series will cause its respective city to go deep into a chaotic celebration that will echo into outer space.
The Blackhawks are the favorite, but the Flyers are the team of destiny. The Blackhawks have a rookie goaltender, but the Flyers have a goalie that has only started eight playoff games (with three shutouts).
The truth is, none of this matters. Here are the keys for both teams.
1) They have to make it a blue-line game. The Blackhawks are younger and faster, and their offense works better when they can quickly enter their zone. The Flyers would love to slow the tempo and let their checking do the work.
2) Michael Leighton has to continue his good play. The problem was the difference in teams he will be facing. The Blackhawks are much deeper than the Canadiens, and they can score on all four lines. He will be tested early and often.
3) The power play. The Flyers have eight power play goals in 39 opportunities, which is 20.5 percent. They have only played one more game than the Blackhawks and have nine more opportunities. They will need to continue the trend against the team that allowed the fewest shots in the league.
Why they will win…
Leighton will continue to pitch shut outs. Brian Briere, Simon Gagne and Claude Giroux join Richards with the goal scoring, and the Flyers out muscle the quicker, younger Blackhawks. In order to do any of these things, it all begins with beating the Bolland, Ladd and Keith line. The best way to do so – slow the tempo and force penalties.
1) The matching of the lines. The reason the Blackhawks swept the Sharks, a very good team, was because Joel Quenneville utilized the skills of the Hawks. He had the Bolland, Ladd and Keith line against the Sharks best scoring line. He mixed and matched players when an injury occurred, and he moved Brian Campbell back in. Look for the checking line to be up against Mike Richards’s line.
2) The penalty kill. They own an 86.6 killing percentage. The Flyers are a team that thrives on power plays. They start comebacks with them; they score early to sustain momentum. The Flyers won the Boston Bruins series on a power play.
3) The fore-check. The Blackhawks need a plan if the tempo is slowed down. They will need to out hit the Flyers in the Philadelphia zone. The Bolland line, Marian Hossa and Dustin Byfuglien will be the bodies to watch here.
Why they will win…
The defense will allow Antti Niemi the space to go to work. The Blackhawks will limit penalties and kill off the ones they do commit. Marian Hossa will score at will and erase the Stanley Cup failures of the past. He will need good fore-checking and more confidence. It also depends on the Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Byfuglien line. It will be hard to get a match up to shut down Hossa if the top scoring line continues to produce.
Overall, the series should be a good one, and a city will be able to rejoice after four wins. Check back on Friday for the series prediction, and remember to check SoICyBlog with Mike Schmidt.