NHL Stanley Cup Final Game 1 Commentary
So we've come down to the final two teams in the Stanley Cup playoffs. 28 teams are done for the season, golfing, vacationing and watching the Philadelphia Flyers and the Chicago Blackhawks square off for hockey's holy grail. I must say that there have been several surprises along the way. When I looked at the 8 teams representing the Eastern Conference, I would have predicted that Washington or Pittsburgh would have emerged as the Champs from the East. Philadelphia has defied all expectations. They beat New Jersey handily relying on rock solid defence and great goaltending from Brian Boucher. They then went down 3 - 0 to a soft Boston Bruins team, who subsequently disappeared and blew a 3 games to nothing lead, and then a 3 - 0 nothing lead IN BOSTON in game seven. I can't say I was surprised that the Flyers beat the Montreal Canadiens. After putting their hearts and souls into taking down the biggest guns in the East (Ovechkin and Crosby) the Habs looked tired, slow and were abused by a bigger stronger, meaner Philly team. The Blackhawks were an easier pick to emerge as the West champs. They beat Nashville in a tight series, then easily dispatched the Vancouver Canucks and the San Jose Sharks. There are arguments that the West is a tougher conference, but the playoffs is a totally different season. The Canucks and Sharks are perennial playoff failures and the Blackhawks played solidly enough to send them to their early tee times. Game one of the final was incredible, and lived up to every expectation that I had after an action packed first 3 rounds. The first period was dominated by the Flyers. The Hawks couldn't handle the rough, skilled and quick Philly forwards. The Hawks held their own however, and started evening the pace in the second period. The game was tied at 5 entering the third period in Chicago. Needless to say, with ten total goals scored in 2 periods, that both goalies played a mediocre game. The third period was back and forth, but Chicago's d-men were far more skilled at keeping the pucks in the Philly zone. The tide turned as Tomas Kopecky scored a patient, but skillful goal that ended up being the winner. Philly held their own in the Hawk's rink, but couldn't outlast them. The game was a blast to watch. Of note was the battle between Chicago's gigantic 260lb forward Dustin Byfuglien, and Philly's giant nasty blueliner Chris Pronger. Both used their bodies on one another and the match-up was exciting. It seems that Pronger won the battle, keeping Byfuglien and his linemates Toews and Kane off the box score, but Chicago won the war that game as they head into game 2 leading the series by one game.