As Claude Giroux's tip crossed the goal line moments into the first overtime session, the city of Brotherly Love let out a sigh of relief. The Philadelphia Flyers outplayed the Chicago Blackhawks for much of last night's pivotal game three of the Stanley Cup Finals, and eventually their strategy of crashing the net paid off.
The Blackhawks seemed to be physically overmatched for the first time in the series, and even looked intimidated down the stretch. Penalties such as the one Dustin Byfuglien took as the second period expired are signs of a hockey club that got rattled. The Flyers find ways to win hockey games, in a similar fashion to the Broad Street Bullies of the 1970's (proportion to today's game anyway). They intimidate, hack and needle away at the opposition until a boiling point has been reached. Byfuglien's two retaliation penalties suggest that that boiling point of emotions is not far off. If this turns into a grinder's series, smart money would probably be on Philadelphia.
That being said, this series still stands at 2-1 Chicago, and we have had our third straight game decided by a single goal. For Philadelphia, this game was a rallying cry for the players and fans, an absolute must-win. The Flyers delivered in overtime, but face the same task in game four, as no team wants to hit the road with a 3-1 series deficit.
For the Flyers, if they continue to physically overpower Chicago when they get the opportunity and get clutch plays out of their scoring lines which feature Danny Briere, Simon Gagne, Jeff Carter and Mike Richards, the series equalizer can be had. Meanwhile, Chicago needs to get back to the high-octane offensive play, while maintaining their strong defense.
I still think Chicago will win this series, but who wouldn't love to see Dustin Byfuglien and Chris Pronger go at it for another 4 games? I'm hoping we see a game seven, and I think there's a reasonable shot we will.