Are the Chicago Blackhawks losing steam? Or did both the Blackhawks and the Philadelphia Flyers just hold serve on their home ice?
After game four of the Stanley Cup Finals, the answers to these questions remain unknown.
With the Finals set to go at least six games, let’s investigate where both teams stand and try to determine who will lift Lord Stanley's Cup.
The series started off with Chicago hosting their first Stanley Cup Finals game since 1992.
The Blackhawks, who missed the Finals by three games last year, came out ready to put on a show. And that they did; scoring six goals, including two from Troy Brouwer and a shorthanded goal from Dave Bolland.
The second game brought more defense and less goal scoring, as it ended with a score of 2-1; again in favor of the Blackhawks. Marian Hossa and Ben Eager scored 28 seconds apart in the second period and Antti Niemi stopped 32 shots.
However, when the series shifted to Philly, the Blackhawks started having problems.
Duncan Keith tied the game 1-1 on a goal at 2:49 of the second period in game three.
Brent Sopel also answered back to a 2-1 Flyers lead later that period when he scored at 17:52.
Just when it looked like Patrick Kane regained control with a goal at 2:50 of the third to put the Hawks up 3-2, the Flyers had other plans. Ville Leino scored 20 seconds later, and from that point on, the game belonged to the Flyers.
Niemi just barely stopped a goal at overtime that reached the goal line, but was waved off by referee Bill McCreary because the puck did not entirely cross the line. But shortly thereafter, the Flyers got a goal on a bad Chicago line change amd as a result cut the Hawks’ series lead in half.
Last night’s game once again belonged to the Flyers.
Patrick Sharp cut the Chicago deficit at 18:32 of the first period, but Claude Giroux had the answer. He scored at 19:32 when Niemi left a wide open net for the Flyers.
The end result was a 5-3 win for Philadelphia, a 2-2 series tie, and a guaranteed game six back at Wachovia Center.
After two games, many felt Chicago would be the heavy favorite to win the Cup.
Oh sure, Philadelphia had a great Cinderella story.
But Cinderella stories don’t win Cups.
Despite the Hawks being the favorites, the Flyers have been in every game of this series. When they lost the first two games, it was only by one goal each time.
Now they have evened the series by squeaking out the close victories in two crucial games on Wachovia Center ice.
Let’s not downplay the importance of Claude Giroux’s overtime goal from game three.
Remember the last time Philadelphia scored an overtime game-winning goal? Simon Gagne did it against Boston in game four after he returned to the Flyers’ lineup from an injury.
That goal played a huge part in turning the series around.
Does Giroux’s goal mean the same thing Gagne’s did in round two? Was it the spark the Flyers needed to regain their confidence and possibly win the Cup?
Furthermore, Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette appeared to make the right decision by scratching Daniel Carcillo last night.
Rookie James van Riemsdyk came in and had an assist on Leino’s third-period goal.
With the young stars contributing to the Flyers just as much as veterans such as Chris Pronger and Scott Hartnell, Philadelphia is still very much in this series.
However, game four was the first time in this series the Flyers held a lead for decent parts of the game. In the prior three games, Chicago was always able to get back in and attempt to get a lead.
The Flyers will have to continue scoring early and have answers for the Blackhawks.
Prediction and Analysis
In my opinion, the Stanley Cup Finals are way too close to call now that we are a day away from game five back in Chicago.
But in the end, someone has to win.
Chicago will come back from two sloppy performances determined to put the series back in their hands and win their first Cup in over 40 years.
Furthermore, a Cup would help Patrick Kane's and Jonathan Toews' reputations as two of the best young players in the game today.
The Blackhawks will want the Cup to show everyone that Chicago hockey is once again a force to be reckoned with.
Philadelphia will want to show everyone why they are here in the first place. It seemed hard to imagine that the seventh-seeded Flyers would even sniff the Finals, but here they are.
After knocking off second-seeded New Jersey, a historic comeback against the Bruins, and bringing the Canadiens’ own Cinderella run to an end, the Flyers have no reason to stop now.
However, after looking at the way each game has played out, I think home ice will be the winner here.
Blackhawks in seven.
What do you think?
Do you agree that home ice beats everything, or do you think Philadelphia has what it takes to come back for game six with a chance to lift the Cup in front of their passionate, yet vicious, hometown fans?