"Relentless" Flyers Frustrate Blackhawks En Route To Game Four Win

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Throughout these playoffs the Philadelphia Flyers have made the impossible, well, possible. Friday night was no exception as the Flyers handed the Chicago Blackhawks their second straight road loss, taking game four by a final tally of 5-3.

For the most part the Flyers dominated the Hawks in every facet of the game; that is until the third period when, with the benefit of a five-on-three power play, the Hawks got back into the game, narrowing a 4-1 deficit to 4-2 on their first power play goal of the entire series.

The Hawks managed to score another goal just under four minutes later when Hawks defenseman Brian Campbell shot the puck through a ton of traffic, a shot that eventually eluded Flyers goaltender Michael Leighton—who, despite giving up three goals, was excellent on the night.

From a Flyers perspective the third period was a reminder that no game is ever out of reach for the Hawks and, on the positive side, that they can "get it done" under pressure.

Despite a hard-luck third period, the Flyers can take plenty of positives from game four.

First and foremost, the Flyers are now tied at two games apiece in the series, which, despite the Flyers heroic come from behind series victory over the Boston Bruins, was a must for the Orange and Black—nobody (outside of Blackhawk fans) wanted to see the Flyers go down three games to one.

Flyers captain Mike Richards finally scored his first goal of the series (the game opener) and looked very solid all night long, especially offensively where he managed five shots on goal. Claude Giroux, Ville Leino and Matt Carle also had strong offensive games for the Flyers—each scoring a goal, each providing the Flyers with numerous scoring opportunities.

Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger (for a closer look at {Pronger and Dincan Keith's contributions check out this article: http://bleacherreport.com/articles/401703-2010-nhl-playoffs-keith-and-pronger-solidify-status-as-defensive-elite) continued his dominance of Blackhawks pest Dustin Byfuglien and also kept Blackhawks star captain Jonathan Toews (finished with a plus/minus -2 rating on the night) off the scoreboard for the fourth consecutive game.

Question is, will the Chicago fans who have called Pronger “Bush-league”, “slow” and a "hack” finally acknowledge that Pronger has been the best defenseman in the playoffs??? Probably not, but he has been...

The Blackhawks penchant for taking bad penalties (they had seven on the night) did not serve them well, as, while the Flyers only notched one power play marker (Richards at 04:35 of the first period), the constant barrage of Blackhawk players to the penalty box killed whatever flow the Hawks had and put far too much pressure on their first and second defensive and forward units.

Worse still, many of the Blackhawks penalties happened 200 feet away from their zone and, on occasions, were very undisciplined/lazy penalties—a real killer for any playoff team.

While the scoreboard suggests a close game it really wasn’t. The Flyers dominated the Hawks along the boards most of the contest and, in my opinion, were never really in danger of losing the game.

The Flyers also seem more willing to pay the price, as everyone from Ian Laperriere through Mike Richards were found blocking shots with abandonment, an attribute that has served both Flyers goaltender Michael Leighton and the Flyers well against the Hawks.

Blackhawks goaltender Antti Niemi looked very beatable on the night, giving up three goals on 11 shots in the first period and looking rather average throughout the rest of the game.

Heading into game four almost every Blackhawks fan was expecting their team to squash the Flyers, stating things like “The Hawks are going to kill the Flyers, 5-1”, “We (Hawk fans) have seen this before from the Nashville series, and look what happended to them” and “The Hawks haven’t played their best game yet”...

Needless to say, the Hawks still haven’t played their best game yet, have they??? I am not sure what "playing their best game" means at this point, guess we'll know it when we see it, thus far, the Blackhawks "best game" was game one of the series, and that wasn't exactly flawless hockey!

To be fair, this series has been extremely close. All three of the first three games could have gone either way, with many experts suggesting it was the Flyers (who outshot the Blackhawks 15-4 in the third periods of both games two and three) played the more complete games and deserved a better result.

I have tried to remain neutral all playoff long, looking to report the games as I see them, not as a Flyers fan— which, again, I am not.

From what I have seen thus far, the Flyers hold a huge edge over the Blackhawks in numerous areas of the game in this series.

First, the Flyers have been the more physical team. Second, the Flyers top players have been better than the Hawks. Third, Chris Pronger has been the best player on the ice...need proof? Dustin Byfuglien hasn’t been a factor, either has Jonathan Toews (except on faceoffs, which Pronger doesn’t take).

Fourth, the Flyers have been way more disciplined than the Hawks (and no, this has not been a biased series penalty-wise) which has caused the Hawks all kinds of trouble (Flyers have gone five for 11 on the power play in the series) and fifth, the Hawks power play effort has been horrific (one goal—which came on a five-on-three) in the entire series.

The point is, while many Blackhawks' fans thought the Flyers would be pushovers in this series, they have been anything but and, in my opinion, the Orange and Black have been the better team.

Fact is, the Stanley Cup Final is now a three game race, with the Blackhawks having the benefit of two home games—which, given how the series has shaken out thus far, may prove to be a huge factor.

Will home ice be enough to beat the Cinderella Flyers? Only time will tell. One things for sure, if the Hawks are planning to play “their best game” they had better do it soon, time, is running out...


***The three stars of the game were all Flyers—Mike Richards (first star), Claude Giroux  (second star) and Ville Leino (third star).

***The Flyers pounded the Hawks with 35 bodychecks in game four.

***The Flyers have yet to lose a game after game three of any playoff series thus far.

***Scott Hartnell gave the game puck to Chris Pronger!

***Game five will be played in Chicago on Sunday night.

For more NHL news and notes check out my website at www.theslapshot.com
Until next time,

Peace!

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