There are many reasons that the 2010 Stanley Cup Final has become a best-of-three series. Before the series started, I wrote about five things the Blackhawks had to do to be successful and win the Stanley Cup. http://bit.ly/dBRInd Now that we’re sitting at two-all in games, let’s re-examine and assess. Here are the five things we said the Hawks had to do to win their first Stanley Cup since 1961…
1. Hawks’ netminder Antti Niemi MUST outplay Flyers’ goalie Michael Leighton. Niemi did that in the first two games, as Leighton let in weak goals in each. In fact, if I was in Peter Laviolette’s shoes, I would have come back with Brian Boucher in G2. Laviolette did not. That could be why he is coaching the NHL and I am not. Leighton played wonderfully in the two games at Wachovia Center. So far, I’d say the goaltending in the series has been equal. Neither man has stolen a game, but neither has irrevocably hurt his team.
2. Joel Quenneville’s no-nonsense coaching approach must be able to overcome Peter Laviolette’s rah-rah style. It’s hard to beat rah-rah in Philly. In fact, I cannot think of a Stanley Cup Final where the fan support has played such a pivotal role. It’s easy for Laviolette to get his guys wound up when he knows the place will be going bonkers. Two of the next three will be at United Center. Advantage Quenneville.
3. Blackhawks’ rugged forward Dustin Byfuglien must continue to be a complete pest in front of the net. Not only has Byfuglien not been a pest on the ice, his behaviour probably couldn’t get him thrown out of the local library. Where the hell did he go? What’s the deal? Chris Pronger hits you a few hundred times and you throw up your hands and say, “Oh well, I did my best.” Call me when it’s a few thousand. Let’s go, Dustin. Do you want to win or not? Get your a** in gear. Show me a guy without some bruises and I’ll show you a guy who didn’t win the Stanley Cup.
4. 22-year old, Winnipeg-born Jonathan Toews must continue to be Mr. Everything for Chicago. Mr. Everything? How about Mr. Nothing. In fairness, we have no idea if Toews has an injury. But, since he’s playing, we have to assume that he’s healthy. Last night, Hawks’ defenceman Duncan Keith got more point in the third period than Toews has in the entire series! Toews is getting around 30 shifts and about 21 minutes of ice per game. I get that he’s been a terror in the face-off circle but, if he doesn’t get the points machine in gear, Hawks’ fans are not going to like the result. Mark Messier was just 23 years old when he threw the Edmonton Oilers on his back in the 1984 Stanley Cup Final. That’s what Toews has to do now.
5. Blackhawks’ blueline studs Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook must physically pound on Jeff Carter and Mike Richards. The Hawks have done an OK job with this one. Neither player has been a dominant force in the series (Richards and Carter 2 pts each), and that’s what Chicago needed going in. But Keith and Seabrook may be starting to get a little ragged around the edges (especially when fellow D-man Nik Hjalmarsson plays like he did last night). If Chicago goes on to win this series, both Keith and Seabrook will be exhausted.
It can’t get much better than the best-of-three we are now facing. I am surprised that Chicago let Philadelphia back into this series. And, if the Flyers go on to win Stanley, it will be one of the most unlikely championships in the history of the NHL.