Friday, May 28, 2010
Why we think the Chicago Blackhawks will win the Stanley Cup
One of the most exemplary postseasons in years culminates with the Stanley Cup Finals beginning on Saturday night. Both teams enter the series hungry for their first championship in some time. Philadelphia last won the cup in 1975, and Chicago has the NHL's longest cup drought, by not winning since 1961.
(7) Philadelphia vs. (2) Chicago
The Flyers will look to keep the momentum going from their improbable playoff run. Since clinching the playoffs on the final day of the season, Philadelphia has shocked the hockey world. It began with a surprising series win over the second seeded Devils in five games. All the Flyers did in the second round was come back from an 0-3 hole to defeat Boston, even after starting goalie Brian Boucher was injured in Game 5. Philadelphia made quick work of Montreal in the conference finals and have won 8 of their last nine games this postseason.
Philadelphia is not only winning with quality goaltending by Michael Leighton, but the team is also supplying the scoring punch they lacked at certain times this regular season. They may not have the same offensive talent as Chicago, but they are pretty close with Mike Richards leading the charge. If they continue to get offense from Danny Briere(leads team with 9 goals), Claude Giroux, Ville Leino, Simon Gagne, and a healthy Jeff Carter, than this series has the potential to go the way of the Flyers.
On defense, when the Flyers acquired Chris Pronger, they specifically got him for the playoffs. He has teamed with Matt Carle to form a dynamic shutdown defensive pair. Dustin Byfuglien of Chicago, had his way with Vancouver and San Jose, but you can expect Pronger to slow him down. Kimmo Timonen and Braydon Colburn give the Flyers a very solid second pair of defensemen, which will be necessary to match the explosive Blackhawk forwards.
For Chicago their game is simple. They are the fastest team in the league, the deepest team in the league, and are riding a hot goalie. Antti Niemi allowed only 7 goals in four games against San Jose in the conference finals. The defense in front of Niemi has played much improved as the postseason has moved on. Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook log most of the icetime for the Hawks and are two of the leagues best. Brian Campbell is another Hawks defensemen that has enormous offensive potential, but has only registered 3 points thus far. Brent Sopel and Niklas Kjalmarsson have been rock solid in their own zone.
Offensively, the Blackhawks spend lots of time in the other teams zone, win faceoffs at a high percentage, and have showed more grit than they get credit for. In our opinion Marian Hossa is going to be needed for offense and we expect him to supply that for Chicago. He signed a huge contract this summer with Chicago, after losing the last two Stanley Cup Finals, and should be motivated to have a huge series. With Pronger expected to be on the ice to match the Hawks best line of Toews-Kane-Byfuglien, they will need Hossa and others to add offense. Dave Bolland had a huge series against the Sharks, by chipping in goals and being a pest towards Joe Thornton. Patrick Sharp has averaged a point a game this postseason, and plays on a line with the talented Kris Versteeg.
Both team have tremendous home ice advantages as both buildings will be bona fide madness. The Hawks struggled at times at home, but seemed to remedy that by beating the Sharks twice at United Center. The Flyers have turned Wakovia Center into an actual horror show for opposing teams. On paper the Blackhawks are better, but the Flyers have something special going on right now and are hitting their stride at the right time.
Prediction: We felt all along the the Blackhawks are the best team in hockey and although it is tempting to pick the Flyers, we are not jumping off the Chicago bandwagon. We feel that Philadelphia will score some goals on Niemi, but we also think that Chicago will get to Michael Leighton just like they did to Luongo and Nabokov. Philadelphia will play spirited and physical, and probably will give Blackhawk fans a scare at certain points in this series. However, with players like Toews, Keith, Seabrook, Kane,Byfuglien, and our pick for leading scorer this series, Marian Hossa, its hard to pick against Chicago.
Chicago in Seven