With a trip back to Chicago for Game Five, no one knew what would happen between the Chicago Blackhawks and the Philadelphia Flyers. If you saw the 7-4 scoring barrage coming, then hopefully you knew to give Vegas a call and put some money down.
The series continued to play into the hands of the home team as a first period to remember gave Chicago a quick 3-0 lead at home. There is no doubt that it was the most dominant period of hockey played in the series by either team. The Hawks had Philly on the ropes from start to finish, something rarely seen through the first four games. The Flyers have played some complete periods, but nothing like this.
On the other side, Philadelphia pushed in the third period. It was somewhat reminiscent of what Chicago did in Game 4, but not as strong. Philly made the push much later in the third, and still could not crack the pressure Chicago had on them.
What turned out to be interesting as you look at the final score, is that the score would have been tied if you take out the first period. This is another testament to what home ice offers in the playoffs.
Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger racked up a minus-five rating, ick. That nasty looking five is not as inflammatory as it may look. Because of his loads of playing time, he is going to be on the ice for multiple goals, plain and simple. It's similar to Hawks defenseman Duncan Keith if he were a minus-five. It may have been Pronger's worst rating of his pro career and a game to forget, but his play didn't necessarily reflect the rating he got.
Dustin Byfuglien finally showed up. It was good to see him on a new line with Kris Versteeg and Dave Bolland. It also shows how coach Joel Quenneville made the right changes to get positive results. He made some changes in Game Four and saw the benefits. It'll be exciting to see how these new lines play on the road in what will be an electric atmosphere in Philadelphia.
What should concern Chicago fans is the lack of blocked shots. Philly had almost a five-to-one ratio in that category. If that stat continues, Game Six could be tough to watch. You have to block shots to keep pressure off your goaltender.
Kris Versteeg got a slump-busting goal, but if he keeps holding on to the puck for too long again....
Pierre McGuirre finally had a nugget that fans could agree with—composite sticks are bad for the game. When Duncan Keith broke his stick on a slap pass in the Flyer zone, he was left hung out to dry without a stick trying to defend Philly forwards Ville Leino and Simon Gagne.
Brent Seabrook made it back, but a defenseman without a stick is like a goalie without a glove. Wood sticks are better served in today's game. The game survived with them before, and a few ounces of weight off the stick doesn't compensate for the loss of a stick in a critical situation.
There shouldn't be a goalie issue in Philly. Michael Leighton had the same issue at the beginning of the series, and then played well at home. To compare, he let in three goals on 13 shots while Brian Boucher let in three on 14. There is your answer.
On a serious note, it is great to see the injury to Danny Briere was not as bad as it first looked. He is a guy everyone can cheer for, and any eye injury in hockey is scary and undeserved.
There are two days to marinate on Game Five and prepare for Game Six. Philly will be playing like a team possessed (kind of like Marian Hossa), and fighting for their chance to raise the Cup. The extra day off should lead to better rested players and an exciting game Wednesday night.