PHILADELPHIA - Who would have thought fourth-liner Ben Eager would have scored more goals for the Chicago Blackhawks than emergent power forward Dustin Byfuglien three games into the Stanley Cup finals?
Or that light-scoring defenseman Brent Sopel would have as many goals as he did during the season – one – while Jonathan Toews, a playoff MVP candidate through the first three rounds, would have none?
The Philadelphia Flyers, hoping to capitalize on home-ice advantage tonight for the second straight game and tie the series 2-2, have similar examples of stars who have been stymied and lesser lights who have emerged as key players.
Flyers captain Mike Richards, who scored a career-best 31 goals, has one point in this series, an assist. Linemate Jeff Carter, who scored 33 goals but is still regaining his form after breaking one foot in March and the other during the playoffs, also has one assist.
But Scott Hartnell has rebounded from a miserable season to contribute two goals and five points while still doing the dirty work in the corners and in front of the net.
“The playoffs sometimes is a second opportunity. You get to right some wrongs in the regular season if you’re not happy with the way you played,” Flyers Coach Peter Laviolette said.
Ville Leino, cast off by the Detroit Red Wings and benched for the first four games of the playoffs, has produced two goals and four points, most of it since he and Hartnell were placed on the wings with Daniel Briere as their center.
The Stanley Cup isn’t always won by the team with the greatest depth on paper; it takes depth of character to win this most grueling of postseason tournaments. It takes third- and fourth-line centers who grind and win key faceoffs and become leaders when their more skillful teammates are neutralized by the other team’s checking line.
And sometimes it takes powerful motivation to win, whether it’s to prove to your coach, your teammates or yourself that you belong here, in this moment.