Stanley Cup: Lady Luck Shines on Chicago as 'Hawks Go Up 1-0
Game One of the Stanley Cup Finals was NOTHING what I expected it to be in terms of scoring. This game had more of a preseason tune-up feel to it in terms of performance on both teams.
I really had to analyze this game before submitting an article as there was so much that happened, it really needed to be reviewed carefully.
With all the "too many men" calls in these playoffs, the zebras missed one on Chicago that proved to be the difference-maker of the game.
The puck touched Tomas Kopecky at the center line and it was Kopecky that got the game-winner to put the Blackhawks up one game in the series.
Ville Leino opened the scoring on a shot that nailed Niklas Hjalmarsson in the forehead and squeaked by Antti Niemi.
Marian Hossa, who is visiting the Finals for the third year in a row with three different teams, was producing this game with a nice pass to a waiting Troy Brouwer all alone in the slot to knot the game at one apiece.
The Blackhawks have proven that active sticks can not only prevent goals, but also can produce them.
Braydon Coburn misplayed a pass that bounced off his stick at the blue line during a Flyers power play. Dave Bolland, Chicago's PK specialist, got on his horse and skated down to the other end to put their second goal of the night past Michael Leighton to give the 'Hawks the lead, 2-1.
Scott Hartnell used the big body to give Niemi a headache and with his net presence, he got a close-in rebound to tie the game at two.
The Flyers got ahead on the board in the final minute of the opening frame with arip from the slot from Danny Biere that Niemi was able to stop, however the rebound proved costly as Briere didn't give up on the play and took a closer shot and it counted.
The second frame didn't prove to get any better defensively.
Patrick Sharp skated up the ice with Hossa on the other side giving him options on the two-on-one rush. Sharp opted to shoot and buried it on Leighton's glove side. Game is knotted at three early in the period.
Blair Betts' goal regained the lead for Philadelphia. As the puck was bouncing to Niemi's left boards, Betts gained control and wristed it from the left face off circle to Niemi's right post and in—4-3, Philly.
Kris Versteeg got a juicy rebound off a Flyers' player that left Leighton's left side all exposed to tie the game again at four.
Dustin Byfuglien was not a factor in this game as Chris Pronger kept him busy, but just barely. In fact, none of the first-line players from either team were a factor in the scoring bonanza that was Game One.
Troy Brouwer got his second tally of the game and got help from the same teammate in Hossa. Hossa made a backhand pass from behind the net to a charging Brouwer, who added to the scoring melee. 'Hawks up 5-4.
After Leighton's 15-20 performance, Flyer's coach Peter Laviolette saw enough and pulled Leighton to bring in Brian Boucher, who was injured in the Bruins/Flyers series.
The Flyers cycled the puck late in the second frame and Danny Briere made a pass from the left faceoff circle to the slot. Arron Asham was all alone and ripped one to tie the game...AGAIN!
So we have 10 goals in less than 40 minutes of play. Did anyone see this coming?
Scoring in the final frame ended up with only one goal, and a controversial one at that in Kopecky's non-call in playing the puck with too many men. To add insult to injury, he ends up potting the game winner in the same shift.
So this game was not one I would call Stanley Cup Finals-caliber as there were 11 goals scored, but the difference was Chicago's Antti Niemi.
While both goalies were not stellar in this game, Niemi stopped the shots he needed to as the Flyers did out-chance the 'Hawks.
Game Two will be played in Chicago and early reports confirmed that Leighton will start.
Is this a time for Philadelphia to panic? Absolutely not.
Is this a confidence-booster for Chicago? Again, absolutely not.
Both teams need to clean up their acts and play their respective games as both teams clearly did not execute their gameplans.
Chicago were scrambling most of the game and that led to wide-open chances for the Flyers. Coach Quenneville said as much.
"I thought we were a little scrambly, more so with the puck than we've been throughout most of the playoffs," Quenneville said. "I know we have to be better than we were based off of those levels that we had Saturday night."
With 11 turnovers and three of those ended up burning the Blackhawks, they really need to clean up the passes and make sure they get to the intended man.
Philadelphia tried to play the match-and-change game instead of playing the defensive game and dictating the pace.
The physical play was not there for the Flyers, and they need to play the game that won it against the Montreal Canadiens.
Granted, the Blackhawks are a faster team, but overall, with the obvious exception of Byfuglien, the Flyers are a larger, more physical team. This did not show in Game One. Expect it to be there for Game Two.
As I have stated before, this series is going to come down to who gets the bounces. Game One may have went to the BlackHawks, but the Flyers have gotten the fortuitous bounce or two (or was that five or six?) throughout these playoffs.
An added note: The Flyers were not called for a single infraction in the entire game. That, and only four penalties were called, all going to Chicago.
This is Cory Ducey saying: "Hit Hard, But Keep It Clean ."
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