Posted by: mdegeorge | June 9, 2010

The resilient, if not artful, Hawks a deserving Cup winner

Lord Stanley’s Cup has returned to the Windy City after a 49-year vacation. As often is the case, it wasn’t the exponent of the most beautiful style of play drinking from the Cup at season’s end, but it was the most deserving.

Let’s face it: this was a downright ugly series in a lot of respects. High-scoring, but hardly the free-flowing style displayed by some of the squads bowing out of the quest for the Cup earlier this postseason.

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The style of play between the Blackhawks and Flyers throughout the series has been quite schizophrenic, highlighted by spurts of offensive mastery and momentum inexplicably followed by moments of unfocused and borderline bumbling mistakes. It was a battle between two teams walking the finest of tightropes between dominance and complete implosion; in the end, the team that avoided that plummet the longest was Chicago, and they can justly engrave their names into hockey history for it.

The teams combined for 47 goals in the series (a ludicrous average of almost eight per game) with an atrocious .871 combined save percentage and numerous soft goals on both sides. Michael Leighton, despite two horrific performances in Chicago, only accounted for two losses because even backup Brian Boucher was so bad in his vain attempts to stop the bleeding off the bench.

For me, there’s no better example than Game 5. The Blackhawks dominate the second half of the first period, scoring three goals in 6:02 to chase starting goaltender Michael Leighton for the second time in three games at the United Center. And how do they respond out of the intermission? By goalie Antti Niemi spilling an easy Ville Leino shot into the path of a hard-charging Scottie Hartnell to nonchalantly tap in just 32 seconds into the period to make it a game again.

Just look at the stars of the series. The Flyers weren’t led by the skillful Mike Richards (one goal, one assist, a whopping minus-7), the goal-scoring machine formerly known as Jeff Carter (1/1/minus-6, and a golden opportunity to win Game 6 in the dying moments missed by somehow managing to find a prone Niemi instead of a gaping cage), or a stirring performance in net by either Leighton or Boucher (combined .871 save percentage and 4.00 goals against average). The stars were grinders and bruisers like Hartnell (5/4/plus-5) and Leino (3/6/plus-6) playing with a finesse man in the form of Daniel Briere (3/9/plus-4).

Ditto for the Blackhawks, who won behind the strength not of stars like Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane (Cup-clincher not withstanding), who combined for just two goals, seven assists, and a minus-10 rating. Instead, it was the grit of Tony Brouwer, Patrick Sharp, and series-changer Dustin Byfuglien. Even Neimi and his GAA just under four wasn’t the spectacular performance we’ve come to expect on such a stage.

The Cup-clinching goal was the microcosm of the series. It wasn’t the pretty, Bobby Orr-esque goal that will grace highlight reels for all time. It was a utilitarian, hard-working, slightly lucky effort off Kane’s stick that just got by Leighton.

The long grind of the Stanley Cup Playoffs certainly isn’t for the faint of heart. This year’s champ was if nothing else the most durable and resilient of the 16. And for it, they get to sleep with Lord Stanley’s Cup tonight.

Game Notes:

– It had to happen eventually. Congrats to Marian Hossa, though he is sill a foolish mercenary who disgustingly turned his back on the Penguins for more money two years ago and should have been fated to drift through life a perpetual runner-up. But he has his Cup, and he deserves it in trip number three.

– By the way Flyers’ fans, way to boo the Cup champs. Maybe there’s a reason why this drinking-baby loving, fellow fan vomiting, Santa Claus booing city so often comes up on the losing end in these situations.

– Oh Jeremy Roenick. What a wuss (and that’s the tame version of the original word I used). So glad you never raised the Cup with your weeping and bawling.


  1. Comprehensive post. Congrats to the Blackhawks, but I agree that it was an ugly series.

  2. The resilient, if not artful, Hawks a deserving Cup winner « The ……

    I found your entry interesting do I’ve added a Trackback to it on my weblog :)…

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