The Philadelphia Flyers are Eastern Conference Champions for the first time since 1997 and have the entire city of Philadelphia “Flyered Up”. However, the team that awaits them in a battle for Lord Stanley’s Chalice is by no means a push-over. In fact, the Chicago Blackhawks have, in my opinion, the deepest roster in the league, from top to bottom. Today begins my three day preview of taking a look at this Blackhawks team in depth, to give a look to Flyers fans exactly just what the Flyers are up against in their bid for their first Cup in 35 years. So, without further ado, I present to you the forwards of the 2010 Western Conference Champion, the Chicago Blackhawks.
Dustin Byfuglien – Jonathan Toews – Patrick Kane
Troy Brouwer – Patrick Sharp – Marian Hossa
Andrew Ladd – Dave Bolland – Kris Versteeg
Ben Eager – John Madden – Adam Burish
Three Forwards to watch on the Blackhawks:
1. Jonathan Toews, Center. Toews is about as complete a player as they come in the National Hockey League today. As sad as it is to admit, it’s actually been overlooked just how good he is due to the fact that he plays in the Western Conference and that both Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Alexander Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals grab all the national headlines on a consistent basis. Still, Toews is certainly not a player the Flyers ever want to lose sight of in this series. As I mentioned on my mini-profile of Toews yesterday, he is the Captain of this Chicago team and, much like Mike Richards, he leads by example and lets his play on the ice do the talking. Toews is the points-leader thus far in the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs, having tallied seven goals and nineteen assists in just 16 games. He is a terrific playmaker on the ice and is a tremendously skilled stickhandler, and gives his opponents nightmares in their sleep with all the remarkable plays he is able to pull off in the offensive end. Oh, did I also mention he can score the big goal, while also playing strong two-way hockey? Yes, Toews is certainly a guy the Flyers need to have somebody (eh, Chris Pronger) on at all times in this series or he will absolutely burn the Orange and Black.
2. Patrick Kane, Right Wing. Oh, what could have been. I’m sure you all knew when this series became official, but if you haven’t, now you have: Patrick Kane could have been a Philadelphia Flyer. Back in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, Kane was the consensus #1 overall pick and the Flyers were coming off their worst season in franchise history. However, the Orange and Black were unlucky in the draft lottery and Chicago – who was projected to pick fifth – astonishingly made their way all the way down to the #1 spot, while the Flyers had to settle for the second pick. Of course, Kane went to Chicago, and the Flyers are currently displaying their #2 pick, James van Riemsdyk, in his first full season with the Flyers this year since being drafted. Kane? Well he’s just lived up to pretty much any adjective you would want to hand a number one overall pick. He was the cover boy of EA Sports’ NHL 2010 this past season, and he lead the ‘Hawks with 30 goals in the regular season. In Chicago’s quest for the Cup this postseason, Kane hasn’t been too shabby, either. He is second in all of the playoffs with 20 points (7 G, 13 A) in 16 games, and has proven to be as slick and skilled an offensive player as many expected when Chicago drafted him back in 2007. Much like Toews, Kane is an offensive force to be reckoned with.
3. Dustin Byfuglien, Left Wing. The man they call “Big Buff” could potentially be the most hated member of the Chicago Blackhawks at the end of this series, regardless of which way it goes. He’s an absolute showboat, something that I can guarantee you won’t go over well with the Flyers and their fans – just ask Mike Cammalleri. However, the problem is that he’s a big man, standing at 6’4”, 257 pounds, and he is not going to be easy for the Flyers to handle at all. He shines in the playoffs as last year he experienced a coming out party, and this year has been much of the same for Byfuglien, who leads Chicago this postseason with 8 goals, four of which came during the sweep of the San Jose Sharks in the Western Conference Finals. His style of play is similar to what the Flyers try to do to goaltenders, except he’s both taller and wider than any of the Flyers’ forwards. This series, just as in series past, Byfuglien will make a home right at the top of Michael Leighton’s crease, and look to wreak havoc in front and frustrate the Flyers’ netminder in the process. He will score you a big goal, and dish out a big hit, and, scary enough, he, Toews, and Kane make up the first offensive unit for Chicago. You can bet Peter Laviolette will try to have either Chris Pronger or Braydon Coburn matched up with Byfuglien at all times, because, quite frankly, those are the only two of similar body statue to try and contain the suddenly high-powered offensive machine that is simply referred to as “Big Buff.”
Offensive Leaders in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for Chicago:
GOALS: Dustin Byfuglien (8)
ASSISTS: Jonathan Toews (19)
POINTS: Toews (26)
PLUS/MINUS: Marian Hossa (+8)
PENALTY MINUTES: Dave Bolland (26)