Just as the three previous Stanley Cup Final games were, Game Four will be the most important in the series to this point—but Game Four will also provide fans with what is almost sure to be the best game of the playoffs as well.
Antti Niemi’s amazing play in goal for the Chicago Blackhawks has been a major focus point in the finals, just as Chris Pronger’s unrelenting defensive play has been a big story for the Philadelphia Flyers.
Niemi and Pronger are both sure to be factors throughout the rest of the series, but there are also several other factors that will weigh in on just how great tonight’s Game Four has the potential to be.
Neither team has lost a Game Four so far.
The Blackhawks defeated the Nashville Predators 3-0 in the first round, the Vancouver Canucks 7-4 in the second round, and the San Jose Sharks 4-2 in the Western Conference Finals—that means the Hawks have outscored their playoff opponents by a grand total of 14-6 in Game Four.
The Flyers defeated the New Jersey Devils 4-1 in the first round, the Boston Bruins 5-4 in the second round, and the Montreal Canadiens 3-0 in the Eastern Conference Finals, which translates to Philly outscoring its opponents 12-5 in Game Four.
Something obviously has to give when the two teams play one another, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be a close game—I’ll say 4-3 Chicago.
The Blackhawks had just four losses in the postseason before Wednesday night’s Game Three loss to Philadelphia.
In the four games Chicago has played following a loss, the team is 4-0 and Niemi has allowed just three goals. Two of Niemi’s wins were shutouts.
Chicago’s penalty kill is 17-for-18 as well in those four wins, and the Hawks have outscored their 14-3.
While Niemi has done his job in goal following a loss, Patrick Kane has been the team’s offensive star. The 21-year-old Kane has three goals and six points, and has kept the Hawks from losing two consecutive games in the process.
If this year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs have taught us anything, it’s that no lead is insurmountable, but a 3-1 series deficit to the Blackhawks is not a place the Flyers want to be.
A Game Four victory would not only give Chicago a 3-1 lead, but it would take them back to the Windy City for Game Five where they have not lost in four straight games.
On the other hand, if the Flyers win Game Four, the momentum will have completely shifted to their side, something the Blackhawks do not want—especially given what momentum did for Philadelphia against Boston in the second round.
Either way, the Hawks will be looking to put a stranglehold on the series while the Flyers will be looking to start the series anew, and erase yet another large series deficit.
Any way you slice it, there are too many factors in Game Four to make it anything short of an instant classic.