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What We Learned: The worst game of Chris Pronger's career

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Hello, this is a feature that will run through the entire season and aims to recap the weekend's events and boils those events down to one admittedly superficial fact or stupid opinion about each team. Feel free to complain about it.

In a couple years, when people look back on this Stanley Cup Finals and go looking for a turning point, it's going to make sense to look at Chicago's three goals in 5:58 during the first period of Game 5.

At that point, you just got the feeling that the puck was flying to the nearest available Chicago stick, as if by magnetism. Philly wins a race for the puck and tries to clear, and there's a Blackhawk there every time. You can debate whether or not they outworked the Flyers through the first period, but they certainly outthought them.

But the real turning point came about 17 minutes of game time after that. The Flyers had cut the lead to two very quickly; and while Patrick Kane(notes) had extended the lead again about 2:30 later, Chicago began to look like the timid Blackhawks side of the first five periods in Philly and once again allowed its opponent to pull within two.

The real turning point of this series was a zone entry by Kane. He came over the line, worked a spin-o-rama to get past Chris Pronger(notes), and in doing so drew a hooking penalty. That completed the emasculation of the series' biggest villain that had started the period before and featured Dustin Byfuglien(notes) hilariously putting him on his wallet.

Make no mistake, Pronger was so unbelievably good in the first four games of the series. He devoured 29:02 a night, and while he didn't exactly pack on the points like he did in days of old, he was a plus-7, highlighted by a stunning plus-4 performance in Game 4.

But Game 5? He was quieted and then embarrassed by Chicago last night. He was on the ice for the first four Blackhawk goals, in the box for the fifth and back on the ice for the sixth and seventh. Byfuglien straight-up abused him on the empty netter.

Without hyperbole, this was the worst game of Chris Pronger's career.

(Coming Up: The glory of Dustin Byfuglien's suit jacket; Dennis Seidenberg(notes) makes bank with Bruins; Lindy Ruff, Hall of Famer; Joe Nieuwendyk(notes), also maybe a Hall of Famer; Kovalchuk in Denver; Spezza in Edmonton; Coyotes park themselves in Glendale; Glen Sather's plan; Mario golf; Leonsis harasses Bettman; an awful Ryan Malone(notes) trade; and Sam Bradford is a traitor.)

His minus-5 rating was literally the worst finish he ever posted in his 1,273 career games between the regular season and playoffs. Just one shot. Only three hits — even Toews had two. One giveaway, no takeaways. It's no wonder that Peter Laviolette didn't use him much at the start of the third period.

And it's not enough that Pronger just looked bad last night: He also allowed some sleeping dragons to wake up.

Kane was a minus-6 in four games before Sunday night, and he made Pronger look silly.

Byfuglien was actually asking his teammates to set up situations where he could go at Pronger one-on-one. Did you ever think you'd see the day that a team told its forwards to carry the puck down Pronger's wing by design?

The problem with the way the Flyers won those games in Philly was that the Blackhawks clearly had no interest in engaging Pronger physically. Regardless of how well he plays in Game 6 — or if it somehow happens, Game 7 — the Blackhawks certainly will continue to respect Pronger, but they're just not going to fear him any more.

He's given them no reason to.

Series over.

What We Learned

Anaheim Ducks: The Ducks want to build a rink in a new park that's being built in Irvine. Officials say the park itself will cost $1.4 billion and several years to complete because of the cost, but will make up that money within months given what the team will spend on sunscreen for Ryan Getzlaf's(notes) dome.

Atlanta Thrashers: The Thrashers are going to make a greater commitment to defense next season, and Matthew Gunning from Birdwatchers Anonymous says they have "the best collection of defensemen in the history," which isn't the high praise some people might think it is.

Boston Bruins: The Bruins just gave Dennis Seidenberg $3.25 million a year for the next four seasons. Not a bad piece of business. If my math is correct that's $18.55 million committed to him, Chara, Wideman, Hunwick and Ference with Stuart and Boychuk as yet unsigned. Yikes.

Buffalo Sabres: Lindy Ruff will be inducted into the Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame, presumably as a reward for voluntarily hanging around Buffalo for 31 years.

Calgary Flames: There was a Flames trade rumor kicking around this weekend but nothing came of it. Kind of like their whole season.

Carolina Hurricanes: Good news for all you big hockey fans clambering for your team to sign Brian Pothier(notes): the Hurricanes probably won't re-sign him.

Chicago Blackhawks: Look upon Dustin Byfuglien's suit, ye Mighty, and despair!

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Colorado Avalanche: "Kovalchuk," says the headline, "would look great for Avs." Oh and the Avs have $25 million in cap space right now? Yeah, well then why the hell not? Give him league max.

Columbus Blue Jackets: Count Mathieu Darche(notes) as a big supporter of the Guy Boucher hiring, if it ever happens.

Dallas Stars: Mike Heika asks if Joe Nieuwendyk will make the Hockey Hall of Fame this year. The Hall only allows four inductees per year, and his biggest competition is John LeClair(notes), Eric Lindros(notes) and Pierre Turgeon(notes). My darkhorse pick: Mike Ricci's(notes) hair.

Detroit Red Wings: Todd Bertuzzi(notes) says he will either re-sign with Detroit or retire. So happy trails, Big Bert.

Edmonton Oilers: Oh man, the Edmonton Journal's Jim Matheson says the team should trade Dustin Penner(notes), Andrew Cogliano(notes) and Ladislav Smid(notes) for Jason Spezza(notes), because he's "seemingly disgruntled with his lot in life in the nation's capital." If the Dany Heatley(notes) debacle taught us nothing, it's that no matter how unhappy someone is elsewhere, they'd be way less happy to move to Edmonton.

Florida Panthers: Litter Box Cats ran a poll asking what the Panthers should do with this No. 3 pick of theirs. As of this writing, 10 of the respondents said, "Trade it for established player(s): to hell with rebuilding...win now!" You know at least a few of those votes were from ex-Florida general managers.

Los Angeles Kings: Dean Lombardi on the Kings next year: "We had success, but that success is only going to be valuable if we learn why we failed." The phrase "Jon Quick's .884 playoff save percentage" springs to mind.

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Minnesota Wild: Pierre-Marc Bouchard(notes) missed the last 81 games of last season with a concussion and still isn't really exercising much. Gotta feel bad about a situation like that.

Montreal Canadiens: Habs 2010 first-round pick Louis Leblanc had his QMJHL rights traded, meaning he could transfer from Harvard to McGill and play major juniors. Bob McKenzie says he'll be "shocked" if it doesn't happen.

Nashville Predators: Hobey Baker winner Blake Geoffrion, formerly of the University of Wisconsin, now waiting for a contract from the Preds, was named USA Hockey's college player of the year on Friday. He really was very good.

New Jersey Devils: Apparently Mike Mottau(notes) recently did a three-week internship at an institutional trading company. He says, "What it really reaffirmed, though, is that I want to play as long as possible." So take THAT, institutional training!

New York Islanders: Erik Gudbranson, listed at 6-foot-4 and 195 pounds, told Islanders Point Blank he wants to put on more weight before next season. Really.

New York Rangers: It only took like a decade, but Glen Sather finally has a blueprint for the future.

Ottawa Senators: The Sens have no interest in re-signing Joe Corvo(notes). So there ya go, Sens fans.

Philadelphia Flyers: In what I can only assume was an heroic effort to wind up the home fans, new MLS club Philadelphia Union wore Flyers T-shirts for its warm-ups ahead of an away match with the Chicago Fire. That's awesome. (But they lost 2-1.)

Phoenix Coyotes: The Glendale City Council is supposed to vote on a new preliminary arena lease Tuesday. The linked article talks a LOT about parking revenues, so I'm going to assume they are vitally important.

Pittsburgh Penguins: Mario Lemieux crushed a hole-in-one at a local golf tournament that will, later this year, host the Women's U.S. Open. Because I'm feeling particularly generous today, I scratched a related Sidney Crosby(notes) joke.

San Jose Sharks: Fear the Fin thinks the Sharks will target UFAs Paul Martin(notes), Dan Hamhuis(notes) and Jordan Leopold(notes) to fill some holes on the back end. Any of those dudes would do great in San Jose before falling apart in the playoffs.

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St. Louis Blues: New St. Louis Rams draft pick Sam Bradford is a Vancouver Canucks fan, but says he will convert to the Blues so as not to offend the locals. The dude is from Oklahoma, so why pick the Canucks of every team in the world? I mean I guess we should be happy he even has a favorite hockey team, but still, it's weird.

Tampa Bay Lightning: The only Bolts news this week is that Stevie Y hired Pat Verbeek to be a pro scout.

Toronto Maple Leafs: If you think Brian Burke's gonna be pushed around by Nik Kulemin, you are wrong.

Vancouver Canucks: The Vancouver Province reports that fewer than five babies in British Columbia were named Henrik in 2009 compared to 156 named Daniel. But those five or less that did name the kid Henrik were probably quite happy about that whole Art Ross thing.

Washington Capitals: Ted Leonsis was so adamant that the Caps should get their Winter Classic that he emailed Gary Bettman five minutes before the puck dropped on the first one. And then several more times throughout the game. So let that be a lesson to you kids out there: If you want something bad enough, constantly annoy the person who is in a position to give it to you.

Play of the Weekend

What a frickin play.

Gold Star Award

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Dustin freakin Byfuglien. After not making the trip to Philly, at least mentally, dude had a game-high two goals, a game-high four points, a game-high plus-3 and a game-high nine hits.

Minus of the Weekend

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Chris Pronger. See above.

Perfect HFBoards trade proposal of the week

User "PJ Stock BB" has a whopper of a trade for the Bruins and not so much for the Bolts.

To Boston: Ryan Malone

To Tampa: Tim Thomas(notes), Matt Hunwick(notes), Brad Marchand(notes), Bos 2nd rounder

Peter Chiarelli would fall into paroxysms of laughter.

Signoff

We'll have to find something to do so that people can look at you without wanting to kill themselves.

Ryan Lambert publishes hockey awesomeness rather infrequently over at The Two-Line Pass. Check it out, why don't you? Or you can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter if you so desire.

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