No surprise that the Chicago Blackhawks won the initial two games of the 2010 Stanley Cup Final. No surprise that Antti Niemi has had a big hand in both victories, especially last night’s Game Two. No surprise that Chicago’s fans almost blew the roof off United Center. But, 120 minutes into the series, there are three things that I just do not understand.
1. Why would Flyers’ head coach Peter Laviolette have come back with Michael Leighton in goal? It makes no sense. In Game One, Leighton provided absolutely no spark, no lift, no inspiration to his team. He was out of position way too often. Laviolette had Brian Boucher right there. You remember Boucher? He’s the guy who wiped the New Jersey Devils off the first-round map and sent the Flyers soaring to their current heights. Then, after he comes back with Leighton in G2, we watch Ben Eager score the game-winning goal over a falling and way-too-deep-in-his-net Leighton. Last night, Leighton seemed to spend the entire game on his butt. If Laviolette does not start Boucher in G3, he deserves to lose this series.
2. Why is the media so concerned with what Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane are doing on the scoresheet? Is the idea not to win the Stanley Cup? If other players, like Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp, are firing on all cylinders, who cares what Toews and Kane are doing? In Game Two, Toews won 63% of his face-offs (15-of-24) and finished +1. In Game One, he won 75% of his draws (18 of 24). Over the first two games of this series, the Hawks have goals from seven different players. That means everyone is working their a**es off. If I’m in Joel Quenneville’s shoes, I’m thrilled with all that. I tell Toews just keep winning those draws, big boy. That’s one of the things it takes to win.
In the 1989-90 season, Oilers’ centre Mark Messier won the Hart Trophy as the most valuable player in the entire National Hockey League. In the 1990 Stanley Cup Final, Messier had zero goals. Zero. And, of the five assists he had in that series, three came in Game Four. It didn’t matter. Players like Craig Simpson and Glenn Anderson and Jari Kurri and Esa Tikkanen and Petr Klima stepped up. That’s what’s happening in Chicago right now.
3. I don’t understand what’s happened to Hockey Night in Canada. It’s like it fell and hit its head very hard on the sidewalk. Or had an elective lobotomy. If you did not see last night’s opening, the only words I can use to describe it are: deeply disturbing. It began with host Ron MacLean shuffling around the ice like an old man. The only thing missing was the walker. Then, as the camera followed MacLean, he began rummaging under the United Center stands. Under the stands! He appeared to be looking for his partner in stupidity, Don Cherry. The next thing we saw was Cherry – wearing a Phantom of the Opera mask. Wearing a mask! Then Cherry began reciting non-sensical poetry and playing the Phantom of the Opera theme on the organ. This guy was a coach in the National Hockey League, for gawd sakes! Was the opening creative? You bet it was – but it was also grossly misplaced within the accepted structure of the show. HNIC has become a train wreck of the bizarre. It makes The Twilight Zone look like 100 Huntley Street.
In Game Three, if Laviolette comes to his senses, and Toews and Kane pop a couple each all will be right with the world. As for Hockey Night in Canada, it looks, alarmingly, like it might be too far gone to save.