Hawks win first title in 49 years in bizarre finish to Game 6

Hockey fans in the great city of Chicago had to wait 49 years to experience the moment again, but on Wednesday night it finally happened.

In a thrilling, yet completely bizarre finish to the title series, the Blackhawks hoisted the Stanley Cup with their 4-3 victory over the Flyers in overtime. Patrick Kane scored the game-winning goal 4:06 into OT, but nobody outside of him knew that the puck had slipped past Philly goalie Michael Leighton because the net indicator never went off. The announcers didn’t even know that the puck had got passed Leighton until they saw Kane skating down the ice with his arms up in the air and the rest of his teammates clear the bench to greet him at the other end.

In all honesty, the moment killed the excitement that had been building for over three periods. Chicago fans obviously don’t care how it ended because the Hawks won, but for casual fans, it was undoubtedly a lackluster finish. (Or at least, a lackluster finish for a game-winning, series-clinching overtime goal.) It was strange to watch the Hawks celebrate while the Flyers stood on the ice waiting for the referees to make an official announcement about whether or not the goal had counted.

Regardless, it was a thrilling moment for the Hawks and their fans. With four minutes remaining in the third period, it looked as though Chicago would win in regulation but then Scott Hartnell beat Antti Niemi to eventually force overtime. Of course, without Niemi, both teams would be heading back to Chicago for a Game 7 right now. He made a couple of key saves late in the game to keep the Hawks afloat. In fact, he saved a point-blank shot by Jeff Carter with less than two minutes to play in regulation, right in front of the Hawks’ net.

All in all, this was a great moment for hockey and for Chicago fans, who are extremely loyal and who cherish titles. It was an exciting series and the NHL can’t be upset about how this one turned out.

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Byfuglien leads Hawks to within one game of clinching Cup

Dustin Byfuglien’s two goals and two assists in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup helped the Blackhawks beat the Flyers 7-4 on Sunday. Chicago is now only one win away from winning its first title in nearly 50 years.

Byfuglien had been quiet in the series before Sunday, registering only one assist through the first four games. Chris Pronger had largely neutralized him before then, but by playing most of the night on a line with Kris Versteeg (who had a goal and two assists himself) and Dave Bolland (one goal, one assist), the trio lifted the Hawks to a crucial victory.

Now comes the hard part for Chicago: beating the Flyers in Philadelphia, which they haven’t done in three tries this season (including Games 3 and 4 of the Cup). Flyers’ goalie Michael Leighton has been downright brutal on the road in this series, but his 31-save effort in Game 4 on Friday night was arguably his best performance of the playoffs. Assuming he’s in net for Wednesday night and not Brian Boucher (who replaced Leighton after he allowed three goals on Sunday), he could make the difference in whether or not this series goes to a Game 7.

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Niemi rebounds as Hawks go up 2-0 on Flyers

After allowing five goals on 32 shots in Game 1, Blackhawks’ goalie Antti Niemi stopped 32 of 33 shots on Monday night to help Chicago beat the Flyers 2-1 in Game 2.

Niemi faced only three shots in the first period, but then saw 15 in both the second and third periods. His defense helped out tremendously, but he made several great saves throughout the game and even though he gave up the one goal in the third period, he shut the door on Philly to preserve the win.

Marian Hossa had another excellent outing, scoring the opening goal of the night. He now has three points in the series and appears determined to get the Stanley Cup Finals monkey off his back.

The series will shift to Philadelphia for Game 3 on Wednesday night and the Flyers have a lot of work to do. They were unable to tie the game last night despite seizing momentum off of Simon Gagne’s third period goal and launching 30 shots at Niemi over the final two periods. They’re looking at must wins over the next two games.

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Flyers fans trash Montreal hockey writer’s car

You stay classy, Philadelphia.

From ESPN.com:

When veteran Montreal hockey writer Pat Hickey went out to his car after Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals Sunday night, he found that fans had covered his car with trash, slashed one of the tires and stolen his Quebec license plates.

Curiously, they also ripped a bug guard off the front of the car, a 1999 Honda Accord with about 351,000 miles on it.

“Obviously it was a bit disturbing,” Hickey told ESPN.com Tuesday morning, hours before the Flyers and Canadiens face off in Game 2 of the series. The Flyers lead the series 1-0 after crushing the Canadiens 6-0.

Since the incident, Hickey has received about 150 e-mails, and they’re running about 3-to-1 on the apologetic side. He’s been invited to dinner, and some fans have asked him to join them for tailgating prior to Tuesday night’s Game 2.

“I’ve seen bad behavior in every city.” he told the Inquirer. “We already had one riot in Montreal during the playoffs. It’s unfortunate. Some people use being fans as an excuse for bad behavior.”

When it comes to Philadelphia fans, it’s hard not to make the generalization that they’re all idiots. But they’re not, and as the article points out, there are moron fans in every city. You just hope that the morons find the other morons when they travel to each other’s stadiums and they can all pick on each other in one moron filled gangbang.

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2009 NHL Preview: Philadelphia Flyers

We’ve partnered with On Goal Analysis to bring you a team-by-team preview of the upcoming NHL season. (Just scroll down on the OGA website and hit the calendar.) Here is the preview for the Philadelphia Flyers…


* Salary cap issues in Philadelphia put management in the mode of tackling the business end of an appropriate budget while under the belief this team is built to win NOW. A pivotal player from last season, Mike Knuble, went to Washington as a result of operating procedures.

* The biggest news from the summer was the deal Philly made to acquire Chris Pronger from the Ducks. The cost was hefty, though as the Flyers dealt Joffrey Lupul and future defenseman, Luca Sbisa. They also had to give up their first round pick for the 2009 draft but feel Pronger may be the missing piece on the blue line to help take the team progress deeper into the playoffs (and past PA-rival Pittsburgh). But perhaps the Flyers felt plenty-stocked on current, producing first round picks to make the move. See below in the Frozen Pill’s Fantasy Dose for examples on why Philadelphia believes the current team is the one to win with.

* Another key addition over the summer was the signing of Colorado’s Ian Laperriere. The Bully-quotient just went up on Broad St. How this will affect one major area of on-ice concern from last season (the undisciplined play and time spent in the penalty box) remains to be seen. One would think, adversely. And so far, in the pre-season, the nasties have it.

* Goalie Swap! OUT are Marty Biron (NYI) and Antero Niittymaki (TBL). IN are (he’s back…), Ray Emery (NHL_exile) and Brian Boucher (SJS). The choices here are the results of a money-conscience team willing to take some chances…hoping the awesomeness assembled in front of the crease infects the play in the blue paint, too. More on this next in the Fantasy Dose, below.

Click here to read the rest of the preview (which includes the site’s unique Playoff Qualifying Curve and fantasy information) at the On Goal Analysis site.

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