Flyers vs. Blackhawks: What We Learned From the Stanley Cup Rematch
The Philadelphia Flyers beat the Chicago Blackhawks 4-1 on Sunday in their first meeting since the Stanley Cup Finals.
Philadelphia improved to a league-leading 69 points and is 9-2-0 in its past 11.
“It obviously was nice,” Carter said. “We know how last year ended.”
Philadelphia was in charge most of the game against the defending champion Blackhawks, who defeated the Flyers in six games in the finals.
As a Flyer fan it was good to see but we have to look at this game as a learning experience.
The following slideshow is what we learned from the Flyers victory over the defending Stanley Cup Champion Blackhawks.
Chicago Is Still Good
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If anyone thinks that the Chicago Blackhawks aren’t good anymore or can’t contend for another Stanley Cup, then you don’t know hockey!
Chicago is in seventh place in the west but they are only 11 points out of first.
They have pushed through injuries and subpar goaltending to become a solid team again. They have been relearning who they are as a team following the departure of some key pieces to the team.
With the losses of Dustin Byfuglien, Andrew Ladd, Adam Burish, Kris Versteeg, John Madden, Antti Niemi, Nick Boynton, and more, it’s no wonder the Blackhawks have had to relearn the way they know how to win.
With all considered, you still have to give Chicago head coach Joel Quenneville a lot of credit. He was kept the ship on the right track even through the turmoil of a wild offseason and the trouble from bringing new talent into the organization.
Flyers Defense Is Deep
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Last year in the Finals, the age and fatigue of Philadelphia veteran defenders showed its ugly face.
The Flyers loaded Kimmo Timonen and Chris Pronger up with playing time and by the time the Finals came, the team’s defenders were exhausted.
Last year in the Finals, the Flyers marched out the pair of Oskars Bartulis and Lukas Krajicek and they played terrible.
As the Finals last year proved, a team doesn’t need a great goalie to get to the Finals and win. They need great defense.
This year the Flyers have improved their depth at defense with Andrej Meszaros and Sean O’Donnell.
Both O’Donnell and Meszaros are solid defenders who are both in the top ten in +/-.
Addressing the issues at hand appears to be Flyers GM Paul Holmgren’s strong suit.
Flyers Changed Their Style Of Play
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“It seems like they had five guys in the neutral zone,” Chicago Blackhawks forward Marian Hossa said. “They were waiting for our mistakes and it was hard to get the puck by them.”
This quote from Hossa after the Flyers victory sums it up perfectly.
The Flyers learned from their mistakes in the Stanley Cup Finals and they wouldn’t let the Blackhawks beat them like they did before.
They played a neutral zone trap scheme and were trying to force their players to dump and chase.
A strong forecheck and commitment to the game plan showed the team has improved their mindset as well as their style of play.
Still Questions In Net For The Blackhawks
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The Chicago Blackhawks knew they would have a question mark in net for awhile when they decided that Antti Niemi’s contract was too expensive to renew at the end of the teams Stanley Cup Run.
The Blackhawks front office’s solution to the goalie dilemma: Mary Turco.
Marty Turco is a veteran goaltender who has been a dud for the Blackhawks.
The real surprise in net has been Corey Crawford. Crawford has played great for Chicago but it is still to be seen if Crawford can shoulder the team into the playoffs.
Crawford has posted 16 wins, a 2.21 goals against average and a save percentage of .922.
Flyers Are The Better Team
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The Blackhawks lost a lot of key components this offseason while the Flyers did nothing but add talent.
The Flyers added depth at forward and are as potent offensively as any team in the league.
Nikolay Zherdev has played well and the development of Andrea Nodl and Darroll Powe has been a big addition to the team.
As for defense, the Flyer organization addressed the problems exposed last postseason by adding two solid defenders who could alleviate minutes from the top guys like Timonen and Pronger.
Goaltending is probably as solid as last year but going through the season, there has been no drama.
The Leighton issue was a little bit of drama but rookie Sergei Bobrovsky has made everyone forget about that.
Overall, it seems like the Flyer have gotten better while Chicago may have taken a step backwards