Stanley Cup Finals 2010: It's a Three Game Series Now, Who Will Blink First?
The Orange Crush at the Wachovia Center was just what the doctor ordered for the Philadelphia Flyers as they went into Game Four down a game. We now have a new series.
I have repeated this constantly but it needs repeating as it seems to be the theme of these Stanley Cup Finals; lucky bounces.
There are bounces aplenty in this series and both teams have benefited from them and it looks like the Flyers got more this time around.
While Philadelphia Goaltender Micheal Leighton seems to be struggling on the stat sheet, the numbers themselves do not tell the story. Most of the goals that Leighton has allowed were off deflections and bounces that boggle the mind. Chicago's Antti Niemi also had some goals allowed that were certainly considered lucky, but Leighton got more of them.
To get up-to-date, let's look at Game Four.
The scoring was opened up on a sloppy turnover by Blackhawk Defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson behind the Chicago net. Flyers Captain Mike Richards stole the puck and backhanded a 5-hole shot.
Friday night was not Hjalmarsson's night as he was in the right place, but made the wrong move. The puck rebounded to him in from of the Chicago net and he made a backhand clearing attempt but it was a blind attempt. Sometimes the worst kind and this was definitely in that category.
The puck got right on the stick of Matt Carle who was pinching in and put the Flyers up 2-0.
Patrick Sharp made a game of it by ripping one from the slot and it had eyes. 2-1 Flyers.
More of the sloppy play from Chicago is costing them as Kimmo Timonen shot from the slot only to land in front of an untouched, all alone Claude Giroux who potted it in an empty Chicago right side of the net. While Antti Niemi was far out on his crease to cut down the angle, nobody noticed Giroux. 3-1 Flyers.
The Flyers were not done and we can talk about the lucky bounces. Leino shot it virtually off-net but it went off Winger Kris Versteeg who was going back to cover the boards, but it went off his back to Niemi's right and somehow got pass his left side to count. No chance on that one. 4-1 Flyers.
The Blackhawks were scoreless on the power play against a very defensive Flyer squad but something had to give and it did.
With a five on three power play, Duncan Keith made a slap pass right on Dave Bolland's tape and he tipped it on to bring the game to 4-2 for Philadelphia.
The Blackhawks are not done and so aren't the lucky bounces.
Brian Campbell led a rush and when he shot the puck at the net, it went off Timonen's stick to bounce pass Leighton's right pad as Toews was rushing the net which seemed to create just the right distraction for Leighton to not see the puck. Much like the entire series to date, it was back to a one-goal game.
In the final minute of the game, the Chicago net was empty and the Blackhawks tried to get the game tied, but the puck bounced over Keith's stick and Jeff Carter was all alone to put the final mail on the coffin of what was Game Four.
So we now have a best of three series and both teams won their respective home games. The question is who is going to blink first in their own barn?
The Blackhawks made an excellent attempt to comeback in the game but it was a case of too little, too late.
Their start in this game was dismal and the defensive play and puck play in their own zone most likely was the biggest contributing factor that cost them the game.
Pronger is proving once again to be effective against Duncan Byfuglien as he was held scoreless and off the score sheet completely.
Philadelphia stuck to the game plan and play a physical, fore checking and defensive game while playing, to the most part, defensively responsible.
Byfuglien may not have been on the score sheet, but his presence was known as he was a one man wreaking ball getting 6 hits in, two of them in two seconds as he took two Flyers players out of a play.
You can be sure that Hjalmarsson will want to forget this game as he was defensively responsible for 2 of the goals scored.
The key to Philadelphia's success was the fast start. They need to make Chicago chase the puck and they need to continue this type of play if they want to brake the home team stalemate.
The key for Chicago is to lay on the body, create traffic in front of Leighton and play patient. To try to get behind the Flyers' defense, who is playing patient in the last two games, can cost them as it was Niemi again that kept the Hawks in the game as close as they did.
So tonight we have Game Five at the Madhouse At Madison and it's going to be a tight game. No one wants to give up a finals game at home.
The pressure is all on Chicago this game for that reason. Then the pressure will switch to the Philly squad regardless of the outcome.
This is Cory Ducey saying "Hit Hard, But Keep It Clean"
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