Last night, following Game One of the Stanley Cup Final, Philadelphia Flyers’ netminder Brian Boucher made the understatement of the entire NHL season. Boucher mumbled, “It was a crazy game.” Oh, it was a lot more than that, Brian! For hockey fans, it was incredibly exciting! For head coaches Joel Quenneville and Peter Laviolette, it was a nightmare! Eleven goals on sixty-four shots. Defence was never even a small part of the equation for either team. It was possibly the most bizarre contest in the Stanley Cup Final in 37 years.
On May 8, 1973, in Game Five of the Stanley Cup Final, Tony Esposito was in the Chicago Black Hawks’ net. Ken Dryden in for Montreal. That night, Stan Mikita had two goals, two assists for Chicago as they defeated Montreal 8-7. Fifteen pucks past two future Hall-of-Famers. And Game One in 2010 was just as strange.
Right from the first shot, both Antti Niemi and Michael Leighton (neither a future Hall-of-Famer) looked shaky. It took over six minutes for the first puck to go in – and the first bizarre moment to occur – as that first Flyers’ marker went in off Hawks’ defenceman Nik Hjalmarsson’s face. His face! Both teams were jittery.
That’s the result of having so many young players, on both sides, who have never competed on this stage. Quenneville and Laviolette had to expect some nerves – but nothing like this. Chris Pronger played over 32 minutes for the Flyers. Clearly, Laviolette will have to rely on Pronger’s experience throughout this series. Pronger pounded hard on Chicago’s Dustin Byfuglien early, and Byfuglien was never really a factor in this one. And neither was the Blackhawks’ Mr. Everything, Jonathan Toews.
The Hawks scored six times – but Toews did not register a point and had his Stanley Cup-Playoff point streak ended at 13 games – and finished with a -3 rating. Bizarre. Marian “I-think-I’ll-play-hard-only-when-I-feel-like-it” Hossa worked harder than any Blackhawks’ player in the game, setting up two beautiful goals. Bizarre.
Flyers’ netminder Leighton allowed five goals on twenty shots. That after entering the game with a .948 sv pct in the 2010 Playoffs. Bizarre. Leighton was yanked in favour of Brian Boucher (who got stuck with the statistical loss). The Flyers had four power plays. They scored once and gave up a shorty on a breakaway by David Bolland. The Hawks did not get a single power play in the entire game. Bizarre.
Coaches do not like bizarre. Neither one will be elated after this one. But at least Quenneville’s squad won. Laviolette’s Flyers scored five times…on the road…and lost. Not good. Other than Daniel Brière’s four points, I can’t imagine a single positive that Laviolette would be able to screen for his team. I would not want to be in the next meeting. Laviolette must now come back with Brian Boucher in goal. He doesn’t have a choice.
And, if Boucher isn’t stellar, the Flyers’ season is over. Thirty-seven years ago, after a wild Game Five, the teams went on another scoring rampage. Les Canadiens won Game Six, 6-4, and hoisted the 1973 Stanley Cup. I can’t envision another ten goals from the Blackhawks and Flyers on Monday night. But, after a bizarre Game One, predictions are right out the window.