The Edmonton Oilers have won the Stanley Cup five times. But the last time they won it, I was six years old and I remember 1990 about as well as I remember 1984, which is to say that I remember the Cup wins fondly - it's part of the institutional memory of the hockey community I belong to after all - but I don't remember living it. But 2006, that I lived. The experience strikes me as being extremely similar to what Flyer fans are went through over the season right down to the presence of Chris Pronger as the team's star. It was a wonderful time, a magical and unexpected run through the playoffs that ended just short of glory. For those of you who are invested, you'll remember both the weeks of joy and the heart-wrenching conclusion for a long time to come (Aside: Cam. Fucking. Ward.). So congratulations to the Chicago Blackhawks and especially to Marian Hossa who deserves it more than anybody but you'll need to forgive me if the picture I can most relate to from last night is the one pictured above.
Every year at this time I think of Rem Murray. Murray came back to play hockey for a chance at the Cup after coming out of an injury-induced retirement. He started in the AHL but managed to snag a spot with the Oilers just before the playoffs. The decision to play cost Murray his million-dollar insurance policy but the man just wanted to play. The problem was, he was never all that good to begin with and through that playoff run, it was clear his days in the NHL would last as long as the Oilers did that Spring. It was his last chance and he knew it as well as anybody. Watching his face as the camera panned the Oilers' bench after the final horn sounded on that Game Seven loss... even the camera man had to turn away. The poor bastard is now a point-per game man in the Italian league. Way to love hockey, Rem!
I don't know who the Flyers' Rem Murray is or even if you have one but as a supporter of a team with Cups in its past but not so much in mine, I can relate to your mixture of pain and joy. And because we can do this one together and with conviction: Andrew. Fucking. Ladd. Scoring chances and analysis after the jump.For those who'd like a definition: a scoring chance is defined as a clear play directed toward the opposing net from a dangerous scoring area - loosely defined as the top of the circle in and inside the faceoff dots, though sometimes slightly more generous than that depending on the amount of immediately-preceding puck movement or screens in front of the net. Blocked shots are generally not included but missed shots are. A player is awarded a scoring chance anytime he is on the ice and someone from either team has a chance to score. He is awarded a "chance for" if someone on his team has a chance to score and a "chance against" if the opposing team has a chance to score. And, of course, a big thanks to Vic Ferrari for making the whole damn thing possible with his awesome scripts.
The numbers have Philadelphia getting the better of the chances in the first period but we all know that's probably not the best reflection of how this thing went down. Chicago was dominant territorially but it seemed like from the outset they'd decided that more goals would come by getting more rubber on net from poor angles than by trying to get into better scoring position and, in so doing, risk losing the puck. Sigh. That overtime goal proved somebody was on the money with that strategy. That said, the play was a lot more even for the rest of the game and the Flyers looked like the better team in overtime.
Joel Quenneville continued with the strategy he used in Game Four combined with the lineup he used in Game Five. The Dave Bolland line - and Kris Versteeg's scoring chance numbers tell you just how well they did - didn't check any one group in particular (possibly because the Richards line is always dangerous but the Briere line was killing them) and instead opted to give him as many defensive zone starts as he could which naturally pairs him up against the offensive players on the Flyers. Patrick Kane's group was at the other end of the spectrum, soaking up more than their share of the offensive zone starts, and they made some hay with the ice time.
On the Philly side, Chris Pronger had a great game, except for the fact that he took those two minor penalties in the first period. I have no idea why Peter Laviolette was tinkering so much during the game but I did find it odd that Arron Asham was sat down in favour of Darroll Powe, who was on the ice for the game's last goal. The line of Powe, Simon Gagne and James Van Riemsdyk was actually pretty decent but it just seemed like such an odd departure from what he'd been doing in the past. I guess he just felt like Gagne and Asham weren't going while Giroux and Powe were and so the changes were made but that kind of switching mid-game to lines that haven't been together all playoffs seems like it's begging for a miscommunication.
In the Highest Heaven
3. Jeff Carter - I think that I'm the opposite of most fans in that the vast majority of the time I give credit to guys for getting chances rather than crucifying them for not being able to finish. That chance with about a buck and a half to go in the third period was a beauty but Carter just couldn't elevate the puck quite enough to find twine. What a tough year for Carter though. Flying to Vancouver for the Olympics only to get cut and then losing in the Stanley Cup Finals. Talk about highs and lows.
2. Marian Hossa - The scoring chances don't scream "Awesome Night!" but Hossa was great again. He and Toews should be a scary combination power v. power, especially if they get to play with another good player. Even with Tomas Kopecky they looked dominant at times tonight. He led the team with a +10 Corsi and also drew two penalties, the first of which came through nothing but hard work. I said it once already, but this is the one player I'm most happy won the Cup.
1. Patrick Kane - It's not every day that you get to score a goal to win the Stanley Cup. But even setting the goal aside, Kane had a strong game with two assists in addition to the game-winner. He was effective with Andrew Ladd and Patrick Sharp for most of the night, but was good enough to earn some shifts on other lines as well. The winning goal wasn't overly impressive but the stick-handling that came before it was. There just aren't too many players who can jive with the puck and be effective against a defender as good as Kimmo Timonen. Kane has a long way to go before he's a complete player, but as a pure offence guy, he's already really fun to watch.
In the Depths of the Pit
3. Matt Carle - I didn't much care for his game tonight. The second goal seemed to be created partially because Carle didn't trust that Krajicek had his man. Thus, Carle moved over to take care of Krajicek's assignment and left Sharp all alone in front. It's a goal that Leighton likely could have had, but Carle also could have played that quite a bit better. When the Philly PA announced the starting defenders as "Chris Pronger accompanied by Matt Carle" I thought it was pretty fitting. Carle is the Virgil to Chris Pronger's Million Dollar Man.
2. Braydon Coburn - He had some serious trouble in front of the net on two of the goals against. The first came on the penalty kill when Dustin Byfuglien was able to stand in front and collect the puck without anyone touching him. Coburn was aware that Blair Betts no longer had his stick and probably should have been more aggressive with his coverage, knowing that no help was on the way. On the other, Andrew Ladd just made a great tip, but that tip was made possible because Coburn was following his man without battling him. You need to make sure, especially as a shot is coming, that the offensive player doesn't have complete control of his stick.
1. Michael Leighton - I don't know that this needs anything in the way of explanation. I'm sure Leighton feels Jim-Joyce-level horrible about that game-winner. With Brian Boucher already under contract for next season, it will be interesting to see what becomes of Leighton.
Note to Readers: I'll have a series review that compiles all of the scoring chance numbers from the series up on Saturday morning.