PHILADELPHIA – Random thoughts through the first five games of the Stanley Cup final:
PRONGER FOR MVP
Much was made of the fact Chris Pronger of the Flyers was minus-5 in Game 5, but when you play as much as Pronger does, you’re bound to be victimized when your team plays as badly as the Flyers did.
And while it would be easy to claim Dustin Byfuglien had Pronger for lunch for the first time in the series – we will acknowledge his hit on Pronger in the corner was a beauty – the fact is one of Byfuglien’s goals was scored when Pronger was in the penalty box and the other was an empty-netter.
Yes, Pronger has to be better, but so do a lot of other people.
“I think if we look just for Chris Pronger to do it, everybody will be in trouble,” Laviolette said. “We are a team that, by all accounts, we win together and it’s usually a team effort. And when we lose, well, we do it as a team. Everybody could have been a little better (in Game 5). I’m sure Chris will have a big game and lead the way. But others…we need to make sure we have all hands on deck.”
Unless something drastic happens in the next one or two games, my Conn Smythe vote will go to Pronger whether the Flyers win the Cup or not. He has undoubtedly been the MVP of the playoffs, just as he was in 2006 when Cam Ward won it instead.
HOLY MOLY, WHAT BAD GOALIES
There have been 40 goals scored so far in this Stanley Cup final for an average of eight per game. The goals and the way they’ve been scored certainly lend credence to the notion this might be the worst Stanley Cup final goaltending matchup in the history of the game.
“I think both teams are capable of scoring,” said Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville. “I don’t think we envisioned scoring at the rate we’re scoring at.”
They probably didn’t envision such weak goaltending at crucial times, either. Neither Michael Leighton for the Philadelphia Flyers nor Antti Niemi for the Blackhawks has even come close to providing the kind of lock-down goaltending that wins Stanley Cups, yet one of them is going to win one.
In an era when goaltending is better than it has ever been, Niemi has posted an .883 save percentage in the final and is one game away from winning a Stanley Cup. Leighton has a save percentage of just .867, holding up a Flyer tradition among goaltenders of laying an egg when his team needs him most.
Say all you want about the offensive talent on both teams or about the defensive breakdowns, but the real reason why there have been so many goals is the goaltenders haven’t even been close to good enough.
LIGHTEN UP, GUYS
It’s interesting how coaches tell their players to embrace everything the Stanley Cup final has to offer and enjoy it, but some go through the process looking as though they’re suffering from a life-threatening case of hemorrhoids.
Take Flyers coach Peter Laviolette, for example. The next time he cracks a smile during this series will be the first.
When asked whether Leighton will be the starter in Game 6, Laviolette offered up this gem: “I don’t comment on lineups.” When asked whether Daniel Briere was hurt when he received a highstick near his eye in Game 5, Laviolette said, “All injuries come from (Flyers GM) Paul Holmgren.”
Now I’m no coach, but if I’m coaching the Flyers, right after Game 5 I come out and say Leighton is my starting goaltender in Game 6, end of discussion. It’s not as though Laviolette has a whole lot of options at this point, anyway.
As for the Blackhawks, their players are great. They love to talk and almost to a man are great salesmen for the game. The organization, however, seems intent on insulating them from anything it views as a distraction and continually shelters the players from something they clearly enjoy doing.
And don’t get me started on the silly secrecy teams employ at this time of year.
For example, Quenneville was asked whether it was Scotty Bowman’s idea to break up the Blackhawks top line for Game 6 and he answered, “I don’t know if it was Scotty’s.” Quenneville was then asked whether Blackhawks director of player personnel Marc Bergevin was instrumental in him getting hired as Blackhawks coach, to which he replied, “I have not a clue about that. I don’t know whether it’s Dale (former Blackhawks GM Tallon) or Bergevin or whomever in that regard.”
So let’s get this straight. The head coach of the Blackhawks has no idea whose idea it was to break up the top line, nor does he have any clue how he was hired.
Just one question. How stupid do these guys think people are?
Ken Campbell is on the road following the Stanley Cup final and will be filing daily blogs until a champion is crowned.
Ken Campbell, author of the book Habs Heroes, is a senior writer for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog will appear Wednesdays and Fridays and his column, Campbell’s Cuts, appears Mondays.
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