Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Who's laughing now?


Funny. Many people had lots of laughs when Patrick Kane had his run-in with the law before the season. Now he joins the exclusive list of players who scored the Stanley Cup-clinching goal in overtime. Even if the only people who knew the puck went in were Kane and Patrick Sharp, leading to one of the strangest and most anticlimactic celebrations in team sports history.

Blog's been quiet; I've had some stuff going on, didn't feel like writing. Also couldn't stomach writing about successful Philadelphia playoff games, so that didn't help.

Pierre McGuire just asked Joel Quenneville a question about whether Antti Niemi is for real or not. Plenty of us wondered about that. We're all idiots.

Niemi didn't have a stellar Finals series, but he won games. In my book, he was neck-and-neck with Jonathan Toews for the Conn Smythe Trophy from Chicago through three rounds. Now, if Chicago can just find a taker for Cristobal Huet and his albatross of a contract...

This was a thoroughly entertaining series. No real blowouts. Game 5 might've been a 7-4 final and was a three-goal game a couple times, but the Flyers constantly came back from all kinds of deficits, and they didn't quit in that game either. Philadelphia's forwards are among the most talented in the league, so no lead was safe, especially with how Chicago was, at times, rather undisciplined and careless with the puck in the defensive zone.

I'd have enjoyed the series more if Philadelphia wasn't in it. As it was, I had to root rather vehemently for the Blackhawks.

Questions about Michael Leighton might be done too. Sure, he was pulled twice in the series and ended up on the losing end of things, but his improbable run of success kept going on and on despite many people thinking otherwise.

The scary thing is Chicago is set up, more than any other team, to do this again and again. The Blackhawks are in cap trouble for future seasons, and I doubt there's a long line of suitors for Huet. Could a buyout be in the future? If it clears enough space, maybe.

The Blackhawks are loaded. Toews, Kane, Marian Hossa, Patrick Sharp, Kris Versteeg, Dustin Byfuglien, Dave Bolland... will they all be back? They look to get help if the salary cap does indeed rise by $2 million as Gary Bettman said it might. (Update: Niemi is a restricted free agent. How much is he going to make next season? Dude just won the Cup as the starter.)

That's a problem for the front office to figure out, once the celebrating is done. What matters right now is Chicago broke a 49-year Cup-less streak.

Philadelphia put on a hell of a challenge. The last team to qualify for the playoffs, and doing so only in a shootout on the final day, the Flyers tore through New Jersey, made a historic comeback against Boston and got something of a walkover in a Montreal squad that ran out of gas. But in the Final, Philadelphia gave Chicago everything it could handle.

Both teams didn't know what they had in their goalies. Both might be fairly content (Chicago more so) right now.

Great postseason from both, and congratulations to Chicago and its fans. And a big thank you from everyone in Pittsburgh and probably Washington.

Twenty two days until the start of free agency.

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