Stanley Cup Finals
Blackhawks in 5
One look at the Stanley Cup Finals match up and it appears to be one of the more lop-sided mismatches in the NHL in years. However, lop-sided mismatches have not been going to formula through out the playoffs, as we have seen the #8 seed Montreal Canadiens stun the President Trophy winning Washington Capitals and defending Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins. We have also seen the #7 seed Philadelphia Flyers knock off the Atlantic Division Champion New Jersey Devils, than rally from 0-3 down to beat the Boston Bruins. When the Flyers beat the Devils they were essentially playing with a third string Goalie in Brian Boucher. Than they lost Boucher, and have seen a stunning performance from 4th string Goalie Michael Leighton, who backstopped the comeback and shut the Canadiens out three times in the Eastern Conference Finals.
While the craziness in the East saw a #7 seed with a .500 regular season, earn its way to the Stanley Cup Finals the Western Conference went as planned as the favorites dominated, with the San Jose Sharks and Chicago Blackhawks facing off in the Conference Finals after battling all season for the top spot in the Western Conference standings. Emerging from that battle was the #2 seed Blackhawks who made all the clutch plays when it mattered as they swept the Sharks in four straight games. One can dismiss it as the Sharks choking again, and while Evgeni Nabokov let in a soft goal or two, it was all Blackhawks as they displayed a toughness and tenacity of a team on a mission.
So here we are we got the upstart Flyers who you look at and you think they are really in the finals against a young talented Blackhawk team that is on the rise and has the momentum of a locomotive. Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews may get the headline and the accolades, but don’t forget about Duncan Keith who sacrificed several teeth to block a shot, and returned later in the Blackhawks comeback in the Game 4 clincher. Keith is the likely favorite for the Norris Trophy, as he leads a strong Blackhawks defense that helps keep pressure of Antti Niemi, who has emerged as one of the top young goalies in the league during this postseason. The Blackhawks even have a veteran presence that knows how to win a cup in John Madden, who was a vital part of two championship runs with the New Jersey Devils. Plus the clutch play of Dustin Byfuglien who has seemingly been around the puck every time the Blackhawks need to win a tight one, as he has scored three game winning goals during the Conference Finals, and the Blackhawks look like a team that will be pretty hard to beat. Of course the Flyers have overcome a lot just to reach this point, but realistically they beat a struggling Devils team, an inconsistent Bruins team, and a Canadiens team that appeared to run out of gas. I don’t see the Blackhawks running out of gas any time soon, and I don’t see the Flyers have a snowball’s chance. It could be a sweep, but I think the Flyers find a way to win one, which allows Chicago to celebrate its first sip from Lord Stanley in 49 years at home in five games.