Athletes will admit that when it comes to the big stage of their sport, nerves and being nervous are natural and will happen. But will they lead to 11 goals between two defensive-heavy teams?
It did Saturday night in game one of the Stanley Cup Finals as the Chicago Blackhawks took the early 1-0 lead over the Philadelphia Flyers in the series in what was a fun, yet disappointing game for both teams. Here are my points of interest after finally getting my heart from beating out of my chest.
Both teams came out playing nervous, but with zeal. It was clear Philadelphia came out to show the Blackhawks they meant business, and for most of the game, outplayed them.
I believe it is safe to say that the 6-5 outburst will be the biggest scoring game of the series.
Tough break for Flyers goalie Michael Leighton. In his return to Chicago, he gave up five goals on 20 shots, and got yanked in favor of returning net minder Brian Boucher. Don't be surprised if Boucher gets the nod game two, and possibly the rest of the series.
Chicago coach Joel Quenneville stuck with his goaltender, Antti Niemi, and it paid off in the third period. Niemi stopped all six shots he faced, and received that vote of confidence Leighton could not. Niemi played better despite his five-goal hiccup. There were times that Niemi picked up the slack and strung together good saves. Without his play in the first, the game could have easily been out of hand, and a win for Philly.
Chris Pronger did not deserve the third star of the game, but Philly should be happy with it as a consolation prize.
Flyer forwards Daniel Briere and Arron Asham had two of the best games for their team. Asham especially played strong with his net presence, and ability to always be in the play. He also took the cross check that got the ball rolling for the Flyers' strong first period.
I was a little surprised Philly didn't have a penalty. The Hawks earned all four of theirs, but the final count should have been 4-2.
At times, it looked like both teams were lost in their own zone. Philly was often losing their assignments and just going after the puck. Chicago could not find the blue line to clear the puck numerous times. If both teams do the same again Monday, they will both owe their goalies steak dinners.
Marian Hossa is here to win, and his overbearing presence proved last night. No goals, but two assists and constant pressure by number 81 made a lot of Chicago fans happy.
Patrick Sharp's goal was a thing of sniper beauty. Top shelf over the shoulder, where he literally had enough space for the frozen rubber to tickle the twine.
Game Two should be better than Game One on the level of defense and consistency. Watch for the goalie talk going into Memorial Day, and a new tone could be set by a Flyer shake up. Enjoy the day off and your Memorial Day. Much love to all veterans and active service men and women for taking care of us at home.
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