Blackhawks Lift Stanley Cup Outside the Box

Chicago Blackhawks' Marian Hossa holds up the Stanley Cup after defeating the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 6 of the NHL Stanley Cup final hockey series in Philadelphia June 9, 2010.  REUTERS/Tim Shaffer (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT ICE HOCKEY)

I don’t remember a finals quite like this one.

When is the last time you saw such average-to-poor goaltending?

Flyers goalie Michael Leighton should have had at least two of the four goals he gave up, including the game-winner. Chicago goalie Antti Niemi continued to surrender some of the worst rebounds I’ve ever seen. His defense did a huge job keeping those rebounds away from the Flyers.

I don’t think anyone thinks Leighton or Niemi are going to be factors for either team next season.

And when is the last time you saw so much up-and-down play? Neither team would slow things down, especially in game six. The whole series was pretty much stretch passes through the neutral zone.

Also, I don’t recall a series where coaches stuck to their lines so religiously.

Much was made of Joel Quenneville’s decision to break-up the Jonathan Toews-Patrick Kane-Dustin Byfuglien line when they were struggling against Chris Pronger, but it’s fairly standard coaching to break lines up to get away from bad match-ups. In fact, there are lots of tricks, like double-shifting players, hiding stars on lower lines, or even changing lines. But Quenneville seemed reluctant to do these kinds of things on the fly with his key players.

Flyers coach Peter Laviolette was also loyal to his lines. Sure, he moved Ville Leino to the top line toward the end of game six, but I was surprised he didn’t mix-and-match more, just to get away from the Duncan Keith-Brent Seabrook defensive pair that shadowed the Flyers super successful so-called second line (Danny Briere-Scott Hartnell-Leino).

I understand that Laviolette probably kept his lines because the second line was working and game six was never really out of his reach, but I wonder if new lines would have thrown Quenneville off of his game. Especially since Laviolette had the last change last night.

The fact that the finals were so different is what made them so great. Both coaches chose offense over defense, trying to win the series on the backs of their best players, not their most defensively stifling. That’s what made the series so exciting to watch.

I’ve never watched someone lift the Stanley Cup and thought ‘Wow. I wish the series could go another seven games.’ This year, that’s what I was thinking.

Quenneville and Laviolette coached outside of conventional NHL coaching wisdom and it made for some very entertaining hockey.

I hope other coaches and GMs took notes and are prepared to challenge some more NHL coaching assumptions when the regular season resumes. As we saw in the playoffs, great things happen when coaches get creative.

And hockey can be very exciting with below-average goaltending on both ends of the ice.