Breakin' it down with Dano
Devils' legend picks Chicago in Final, looks forward to busy summer
|Ken Daneyko is the Devils' all-time leader in games played (1,283).|
With the Stanley Cup Final between the Chicago Blackhawks and Philadelphia Flyers set to start May 29 at Chicago, Daneyko's ready to continue his analyst duties on MSG’s Hockey Night Live!, which airs Sunday nights through June 13.
Fans can also catch him on Versus' The Daily Line following the conclusion of every game in the Final.
Add all that to hitting the links for his upcoming charity golf tournament and keeping up with his son Shane's performances in an upcoming musical production, and the Devils' legend is just as active during the summer as he is all winter long.
He's expecting a thrilling Final and predicts Chicago taking it in a long series. The second-seeded Blackhawks are making their first Final appearance since 1992 and hope to snap a 49-year title dry spell that's the longest active drought in the League.
“I think it sets up for a real good Final,” Daneyko said Wednesday. “Both cities have great fan support and love their hockey; love their sports. It’s a pretty good matchup as far as the National Hockey League is concerned. I’m looking forward to watching it because it should be a good one, but I think Chicago’s just a little bit deeper.”
Philadelphia last earned a Final berth in 1997 and hasn’t won a Cup since 1975. They qualified for the seventh seed on the final day of the regular season and embarked on an improbable run that began with a first-round defeat of the Devils.
Daneyko understands that Devils fans might have mixed feelings about this year's title round.
“To Devils fans it’s disappointing obviously because the Devils lost to Philadelphia,” Daneyko said. “It’s an archrival, and I’m no different. My heart still bleeds red and black. On the other hand, Philadelphia was supposed to be one of the favorites in the East at the start of the season. They put it together at the right time.”
That’s one parallel Daneyko notices between this year’s Flyers and the 1995 Devils, who entered the playoffs as a fifth seed and took the Cup with a sweep of the heavily-favored Detroit Red Wings.
“I’d say it’s very similar as far as we didn’t have a great regular season,” said the three-time Cup winner. “We ended up getting on a roll at the right time.”
As always, goaltending will be important. Antti Niemi handles the No. 1 duties for the Hawks and will duel Michael Leighton, whom the Flyers claimed off waivers from Carolina in December.
Philadelphia opened the postseason starting Brian Boucher, one of five goalies they were forced to use this season because of injuries. The injury bug struck again in the second round, when Boucher sprained his MCL against Boston. But with Leighton back in net, the Flyers finished off the Bruins, becoming only the third team in NHL history to win a series after trailing three games to none.
“I look at Michael Leighton, and he may be a journeyman again next year, but this is a moment where playoff heroes are made,” Daneyko said. “It may not last – who knows? – but you have to give him credit because it may be a once in a lifetime opportunity.”
Both finalists are talented at forward.
“They have a lot of offensive weapons,” Daneyko explained. “Everyone knows about Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane – terrific players in Chicago. Philly’s got some good ones in Mike Richards, Jeff Carter and Danny Briere, who’s played extremely well. It’s closer than people think.”
Daneyko, who was a rugged heart-and-soul defenseman during his 20-year NHL career, speaks from experience when he says depth wins titles.
“Everybody knows about the stars, and they have to be good, but you don’t get to the Stanley Cup Final without having your supporting cast, your depth guys and role guys,” he said. “Both teams have plenty of them who have really chipped in throughout the playoffs.”
Devils fans will find a familiar face in this Final. Chicago center John Madden, who departed as a free agent last summer after 10 seasons in New Jersey, is looking for his third ring.
“He’s one of those role guys, but obviously he’s been able to bring some of that veteran experience,” Daneyko said. “He brings two Cup with him that he won here in New Jersey, so he’s got to be excited to get another opportunity certainly with a young, hungry team like the Blackhawks.”
When Daneyko's not breaking down the NHL playoffs, he's busy away from the television studio, as well. His annual charity golf tournament is set for Thursday, July 15, at the Suburban Golf Club in Union, N.J.
The event benefits The Center for Great Expectations, which assists women and their children through homelessness, pregnancy and addiction recovery. Available packages include a foursome with former NFLer Tony Siragusa, and, of course, an opportunity to golf with Daneyko himself. For more details, call 732-247-7003 or download a PDF brochure.
Daneyko’s also excited for his 11-year-old son Shane’s upcoming performance in “13: The Musical” at the Morristown-Beard School’s Founders’ Hall Performing Arts Center. Presented by the Hexagon Players of Mendham, N.J., it's "a grown-up story of growing up" that features an all teen cast. Daneyko says the show’s for “anybody that has teenage kids,” adding “It’s just very intriguing and the kids do an excellent job.”
The show opens for the Memorial Day weekend on Friday, May 28, with shows on Saturday and Sunday, and continues with additional performances on Friday, June 4 and Saturday, June 5. Tickets are on sale now, and Daneyko looks forward to seeing Devils fans there. For more information, visit hexagonplayers.org or call the box office at 973-543-8770.
“It’s his true passion like hockey was mine,” Daneyko said of Shane. “Your kid doesn’t have to follow in your footsteps as long as they have a passion for something. Acting, singing and plays are Shane’s passions. He’s done quite a few of them and that’s something that he wants to pursue.”
Any teen celebrating their 13th birthday at the show will receive a package that includes having their photo featured in the theater lobby, an autographed show poster, and a photo with the cast.