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What do the two teams who played for the 2010 Stanley Cup have in common? A sense for the dramatic it seems. On Sunday, both the Chicago Blackhawks and the Philadelphia Flyers trailed three games to two in the opening round of the NHL playoffs. Both teams trailed in the third period, but were able to make a charge and win their respective games in overtime. The Flyers, the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference, defeated the Buffalo Sabres 5-4, and the Blackhawks, the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference defeated the best team in the NHL, the Vancouver Canucks 4-3.
Both teams have had their problems this season but their roles have been reversed. The Blackhawks were the No. 2 seed in the West last year while the Flyers were the No. 7 seed in the East. The Flyers have struggled in the playoffs due to injuries and a lack of solid goaltending. Their best defenseman, Chris Pronger, and leading goal-scorer, Jeff Carter, have both been limited by injuries. The Blackhawks have struggled after letting some of their best players from last season leave the team. They lost their goalie Antti Niemi, big man, Dustin Byfuglien, defenseman Brent Sopel, winger Andrew Ladd, and center John Madden in the off-season.
The Flyers had inconsistent goaltending in last year’s playoffs and it is hurting them again this year. Throughout the series against the Sabres the Flyers have had three different goalies start games. Rookie Sergei Bobrovsky started the first two games of the series, but was pulled in game two after allowing three goals on seven shots. Veteran goalie Brian Boucher, who has played a number of playoff games for the Flyers, came in to relieve Bobrovsky, and pick up the win in game two. Boucher then started the next three games, but didn’t survive the first period of game five after allowing three goals on 11 shots. Michael Leighton then became the third goalie to get playing time for the Flyers who lost game five in overtime 4-3. Leighton then started game six but didn’t make it through the first after allowing three goals on just eight shots. Boucher got a second chance and allowed only one goal as the Flyers won the game in overtime. Their opponent, the Sabres, have had mostly excellent goaltending from Ryan Miller who has two shutouts in the series. If the Flyers fail to make it past the first round this year, they will once again have their goalies to blame.
For the Blackhawks the season has been somewhat disappointing. The team was completely restructured after winning the Stanley Cup last season, and barely made the playoffs, just days before the season ended. Now they will be without one of their best playoff performers so far this season forward Bryan Bickell. Bickell has two goals and two assists in the series against the Canucks, but had surgery on his wrist Monday after suffering an injury in game two of the series. He missed game three, but returned for games five through six to help the Blackhawks even the series at three. It was determined though that time had run out, and he had to have the surgery to repair a lacerated tendon in his wrist. The Blackhawks trailed the Canucks three games to none, but have bounced back and have a chance in game 7 Tuesday night to move on. Only three NHL teams have come back from a 3-0 deficit. The Toronto Maple Leafs won the 1942 Stanley Cup over the Detroit Redwings after going down 3-0. In 1975 the New York Islanders won the quarterfinals round against the Pittsburgh Penguins facing the same deficit. And just last year, the 2010 Philadelphia Flyers defeated the Boston Bruins to make the Stanley Cup Finals after facing a 3-0 deficit.
Tuesday night will decide the fate of these two teams and whether either or both teams will get another crack at hoisting Lord Stanley’s Cup.