Pivotal Matchups 10 things to watch for in the Finals - by The Inquirer's Sam Carchidi
Flyers scoring line of Mike Richards, top, Simon Gagne, and Jeff Carter vs. Blackhawks checking line of Andrew Ladd, Dave Bolland, and Kris Versteeg
The Flyers need their top line to continue to set the scoring pace despite the Hawks' defensive success so far. Ladd, Bolland, and Versteeg, three speedy players, figure to see lots of time against the Richards line in Chicago, where the Hawks will get the last line change. The Flyers' game plan is to shoot high on goalie Antti Niemi. This line will also face top defensemen Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook.
Flyers winger Ian Laperriere vs. Blackhawks scorers Patrick Sharp and Patrick Kane
Laperriere fearlessly tries to block shots with his body at every opportunity. Sharp and Kane will need to avoid wasting their chances when he is nearby. Sharp,
a former Flyer, may have Chicago's hardest shot; Kane's trademark shot is a wrister from the left circle.
Flyers defensemen Braydon Coburn (right) and Kimmo Timonen vs. the Blackhawks' scoring line of Dustin Byfuglien, Jonathan Toews (left) and Patrick Kane.
If Coburn and Timonen can't keep this line from dominating the action, the series could be a short one. Chris Pronger and Matt Carle will also see a lot of time against this dominating unit. The Flyers' "Core Four" defensemen were outstanding in the first three rounds.
Flyers line of Ville Leino (left), Danny Briere, and Scott Hartnell vs. Blackhawks defensemen Brian Campbell and Niklas Hjalmarrson.
The Flyers need this line to continue its superb play and take some of the scoring pressure off the first line. Campbell and Hjalmarrson play the body and the puck well. Campbell is also an excellent skater and an offensive threat.
Flyers' power-play line of Simon Gagne, Mike Richards, and Jeff Carter, above, vs. Blackhawks penalty killers John Madden and Dave Boland.
The veteran Madden uses his stick well to keep opponents off balance, so the Flyers will need to set up behind the net and in the corners to get the angles. The Flyers are 17 for 82 (20.7 percent) on the PP during the playoffs. Chicago has scored three shorthanded goals in the playoffs.
Blackhawks left winger Dustin Byfuglien vs. Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger
Can the Blackhawks' massive winger "known as Big Buff " make a stand in front of the Flyers' goal, or will the 6-foot-6, 220-pound Pronger be able to keep the crease clear of enemy snipers? Byfuglien, a 6-4, 257-pounder who has also been used as a defenseman, had three game-winning goals in the conference finals.
Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews vs. Flyers goalie Michael Leighton
Toews has become the Conn Smythe front-runner as he leads all playoff scorers with 26 points. He is hoping to become the second-youngest captain (22 years old) to ever lead his team to a Cup. Leighton will have to be ready for Toews' trademark stuffer from the goal line.
Blackhawks shot-blocker extraordinaire Brent Sopel vs. Flyers sharpshooter Jeff Carter
Keep an eye on how often Sopel throws his body in front of a Carter howitzer. Sopel is to the Hawks what Ian Laperriere is to the Flyers: fearless. "I'll be about 50 years old before I'm fully healed up," Sopel said. The veteran is making his first appearance in the Finals.
Blackhawks power-play unit of Dustin Byfuglien, Jonathan Toews, and Patrick Kane, above, vs. Flyers penalty-killers Mike Richards and Claude Giroux
Giroux has been clutch during the postseason, but the Hawks' power play moves the puck fast and is 14 for 62 (22.6 percent) in the playoffs. Richards, Giroux, Blair Betts, and Darroll Powe were relentless penalty killers in the conference finals, helping the Flyers kill 21 of 22 penalties against Montreal.
Blackhawks net crashers Dustin Byfuglien, Troy Brouwer, and Andrew Ladd, above, vs. Flyers goalie Michael Leighton
These tough forwards will look to create distractions in front of Leighton to open some space for their respective lines. Leighton better be on his toes because the Hawks will get much more traffic out front than Montreal did in the previous round.
When you analyze the talented rosters, the Flyers and Blackhawks are oh, so evenly matched. Among the intangibles in the Flyers' favor, however, is that they could have a more desperate edge to their game.
HEAD TO HEAD: FLYERS VS. BLACKHAWKS
Leighton seizes the moment
Jeff Reese couldn't imagine a more treacherous situation for a goalie to skate into.
Game 5 of the Eastern Conference semifinals in Boston. An elimination game for the Flyers, who are clinging to a 1-0 lead with 15 minutes, 29 seconds left in the second period.
Through it all, Flyers' Laviolette stuck to his plan
Boiled down to its essence, the question Peter Laviolette delivered to the Flyers when he succeeded John Stevens as coach on Dec. 4 was posed like this: Would you rather work hard with the puck or work hard without it?
Laperriere: A 'heart and soul guy'
After signing a three-year free-agent deal with the Flyers last July, Ian Laperriere said other NHL clubs were interested in a 14-year veteran with considerable wear and tear on his body. Among them, he said, were Calgary, Phoenix, and Toronto.
Niemi an unlikely hero for Hawks
CHICAGO - Some people know Antti Niemi as the Chicago Blackhawks' 26-year-old rookie. Others, especially back home in Finland, might remember him as the player who drove a Zamboni to make extra money.
Three scorers power Blackhawks
CHICAGO - Two kids and a cast-off are the keystones of the Chicago Blackhawks.
At age 22, Jonathan Toews is the youngest captain in the NHL and in the history of the Hawks. His close friend and first-line mate, Patrick Kane, is a mullet-wearing 21-year-old who looks as if he's 16. And one of the team's elder statesmen, Patrick Sharp, 28, once was a seldom-used Flyer.
THE FLYERS IN DEPTH
Richards, Pronger go for glory
Phil Sheridan: Mike Richards and Chris Pronger already have gold. Now the Flyers' two very different leaders are playing for silver - the gleaming Stanley Cup.
In painful moments, Flyers bonded
Bob Ford: Pain, injury, and danger lurk on the edges of most sports at the highest levels, but hockey is the only one in which the players routinely seek out the peril. "You're not worried about blocking a shot with your face. You're trying to," said Chris Pronger.
Holmgren opens up about team, season
Paul Holmgren replaced Bob Clarke as the Flyers' general manager Nov. 11, 2006, after seven seasons as assistant GM with the club. In 2007-08, Holmgren's first full season, the Flyers improved 39 points from the season before, the best single-season improvement in club history. The Flyers advanced to the Eastern Conference finals in '08. In 2008-09, the Flyers lost in the first round of the playoffs.
3-time champ says Flyers can succeed
The most decorated member of the Flyers' organization has a thick New York accent, plies his trade in relative anonymity, and couldn't be more unassuming.
The grunts chip in
Lesser-known players will continue to have key roles.
Mike Richards has been Captain Clutch during the playoffs. Jeff Carter and Simon Gagne, already popular with the Flyers faithful, gained further recognition for their post-injury heroics during this magical run. Goalie Michael Leighton has captured fans' hearts as a spectacular fill-in for Brian Boucher.
THE BLACKHAWKS IN DEPTH
Blackhawks' Byfuglien a big obstacle
CHICAGO - The best way to describe the Chicago Blackhawks' Dustin Byfuglien is this: He's an enormous - and enormously talented - hockey player.
Eager to play against ex-team?
CHICAGO - There aren't a lot of questions about Chicago's roster heading into the Stanley Cup Finals. One variable is whether Blackhawks left winger Ben Eager will have the chance to play in front of the Flyer fans who once cheered him.
Hawks' rebirth was overdue
Suddenly, Chicago has reasons to care about hockey again. On a recent sun-drenched afternoon in Chicago, advertising salesman Bill Leahy emerged from a store on trendy Michigan Avenue with some Blackhawks hats to give to his friends.
Hossa in his third straight Finals
On the losing side with the Wings and Penguins, he says he's a little bit wiser.
Most everywhere he goes these days, someone is there to remind Marian Hossa that he's about to play in his third consecutive Stanley Cup Finals while he's still in search of an elusive championship.
Chicago swept the Flyers in 1971
The last time the Flyers played Chicago in the NHL playoffs, Bobby Clarke was a 21-year-old budding superstar, 26-year-old goalie Bernie Parent had been traded to the Maple Leafs two months earlier, and the Blackhawks were known as the Black Hawks.
1975 Flyers vs. 2010 Flyers - who would win?
The Flyers, fueled by an epic comeback in which they overcame a 3-0 series deficit against the Boston Bruins in the conference semifinals, are trying to win the franchise's third Stanley Cup - and their first since 1975.
Seven Greatest Victories in Flyers History
Ed Snider and the Flyers faithful would love to see this list grow by one. If the Flyers somehow manage to win the holy grail of hockey this year after barely squeaking into the playoffs and with a goaltender they claimed off waivers at midseason, the Cup clincher will have to check in at No. 3.* But until then, here's one person's list:
Best Goalie Performances Ever
Here are some of the top playoff performances by a goalie.
Patrick Roy, Montreal Canadiens, 1986
The Canadiens won the Stanley Cup as this rookie sensation racked up a 1.92 goals-against average and won 15 of 20 playoff games. His best game was a 1-0 shutout of the Calgary Flames in Game 4 of the Cup Finals.
Stanley Cup Trivia
Here are some Flyers Stanley Cup stumpers to entertain your family and friends with. The answers are below:
1. Which team beat the Flyers in the 1985 Finals?
ON THE FLY: INSIDE THE STANLEY CUP FINALS
The pressure mounts for both teams
Phil Sheridan: For the men in the orange sweatshirts, the number is 35. Three-and-a-half decades since the last Stanley Cup championship. For the men in black, the number is even bigger. It has been 49 years since the Black Hawks - two words then, just one now - won their last Cup.
Eternally devoted to the Spectrum
I miss the Spectrum.
Sure, the Wachovia Center is a beautiful place, full of the glam and bling and sparkly things you need these days to keep fans happy.
Bernie Parent on Cup, then and now
From: Gonzalez, John
To: Fox, Ashley; Parent, Bernie
Subject: Orange & Black
I'd like to welcome our newest member of Team Talkin': Flyers legend Bernie Parent (www.bernieparent.net).
Roenick has allegiances to both Flyers and Hawks
CHICAGO - Given that he will be analyzing the series for NBC, Jeremy Roenick was obviously interested in the Stanley Cup Finals. But his lineage with both the Flyers and Blackhawks means he will be watching not only with his head but also with his heart.
Pep rally outside Wachovia Center
Need to get out and enjoy some fresh air?
The Flyers are inviting fans to a free pep rally outside the Wachovia Center on Friday from noon to 2 p.m.