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Hawks' win caps goal fest in Final

by John Kreiser
Once upon a time -- last year for example -- the road to the Stanley Cup was paved with defense. Goalies were fabulous and goals were rare.

Not this year.

Chicago's 4-3 overtime victory over Philadelphia in Game 6 Wednesday night capped a Stanley Cup Final that produced offensive numbers we haven't seen in three decades.

The Blackhawks outscored the Flyers, 25-22, in the six-game series -- meaning they scored only six fewer goals than the Pittsburgh Penguins and Detroit Red Wings combined for in last year's seven-game Final.

The combined total of 47 goals is the most in the Final in 30 years and the third-highest total in NHL history The Flyers and New York Islanders combined for 52 goals in 1980 -- when, like this year, the Flyers saw their Cup hopes disappear due to an overtime goal.

The series was a nightmare for all three goaltenders who took part. Chicago's Antti Niemi allowed 21 goals and finished with a goals-against average of 3.41 and a save percentage of just .882. But Philadelphia's Michael Leighton struggled even more, allowing 26 goals and a 3.96 average, with a save percentage of only .876 -- this after coming into the Final with a 1.48 GAA and a save percentage of .948 through the first three rounds. Backup Brian Boucher, who wound up taking the loss after relieving Leighton in Games 1 and 5, had a 3.75 GAA and a save percentage of just .846.

The Blackhawks do have some experience in high-scoring Finals -- in fact, they were involved in the highest-scoring Final in NHL history. In 1973, they combined with the Montreal Canadiens to score 56 goals, an average of 9.33 per game, in the Habs' six-game triumph.

The Flyers-Blackhawks series average of 7.83 goals was the fourth-highest since the Final became a best-of-7 affair in 1939 -- and was nearly 3.5 more goals per game higher than last year. The last time the two teams in the Final averaged more than five goals per game was 1997, when the Flyers and Detroit Red Wings averaged 5.50 goals in Detroit's four-game sweep.

The Islanders and Flyers averaged 8.67 goals in 1980, the second-highest average ever, and the Isles and Minnesota North Stars turned on the red light 42 times, an average of 8.40 per game, in New York's five-game victory.

The Flyers and Blackhawks also combined to play the first Final since 1998 that didn't include a shutout. Not since Detroit swept Washington in 1998 had a Final been played without at least one shutout -- the longest such streak in League history.
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