Style points don’t mean a whole lot when you’re four wins away from the Stanley Cup.
For two periods, the Blackhawks and Flyers were engaged in a back-and-forth shootout not for the faint of heart. Then, the third period rolled around, the Hawks started dominating the puck possession and the ice tilted heavily in their favor.
Eight minutes into the third, Brent Seabrook made an easy keep-in at the blue line look difficult when he lost his balance. As he tripped over his own feet, the Flyer forwards smelled an odd-man opportunity and leapt at the chance. Instead, Seabrook swatted the puck to Dave Bolland who chipped it to Kris Versteeg.
With all three Flyer forwards outside the blue line, the Hawks had numbers. Versteeg found a wide-open Tomas Kopecky streaking down the slot. Kopecky waited, waited, and waited, then out-waited Brian Boucher and slipped the puck past him for the game-winning goal.
The Flyers best chances to tie the game missed the net as shots from Arron Asham and Daniel Briere sailed wide of the 6 x 4. Other than that, it was your typical run-of-the-mill 6-5 Stanley Cup Game 1 win. Nothing too out of the ordinary.
—Like we said the other day, this match-up may resemble a Stanley Cup Final from the mid 80’s and it didn’t take very long to prove us right. The goaltending was subpar, the defensive play was sloppy (at least until the 3rd), and the action was back-and-forth. Michael Leighton didn’t make it out of the 2nd period.
–I’m not sure when the shot of Michael Leighton was filmed prior to the game but when NBC showed a shot of him in the locker room, I had the sneaking suspicion he wasn’t going to last long in tonight’s affair. While sitting in his locker, Leighton had his eyes closed while his lips quivered. Not exactly the thing you want to see out of your goalie before the biggest game of the year. It was kind of like seeing a horse walk around with a limp before getting into the starting gate.
Antti Niemi wasn’t much better in the first two periods but at least he wasn’t so predictable in his awfulness.
—Arron Asham is like Jordin Tootoo, except better and possibly more annoying.
–There’s not many other people on this earth who could’ve set up both of Troy Brouwer’s goals other than Marian Hossa. He completely outmuscled and outclassed the Flyers’ defending him before slipping the puck to Brouwer. Also, give credit to Brouwer for burying his opportunities.
—Tomas Kopecky continued his most excellent post-season by scoring the aforementioned game-winning goal and by setting up Kris Versteeg’s game-tying goal. He walked right around the Flyer defenseman before spotting Versteeg wide-open in front of the net.
–By the 10 minute mark of the 3rd period, Chris Pronger had absolutely nothing left in his tank. The longer this series goes, the worse it’s going to get. Of course, playing 32 minutes doesn’t exactly help the situation. Also getting into a boxing match with Dustin Byfuglien in the crease on his first few shifts didn’t help, either.
–Just a weird game in general. The Hawks and Flyers top lines were a combined -16 while combining for 0 points. Meanwhile, every other line other than the Hawks 4th line scored. When people said the Richards line and Toews line would cancel each other out, I don’t think that’s what they had in mind.
—Peter Laviolette may have opened up a huge can of worms by yanking Michael Leighton in the 2nd period. The debate will rage for a couple days now about who to start and rather than worry about the important stuff, this is what’s going to be broken down. Granted, Leighton wasn’t playing very well, but neither was Niemi and it’s only Game 1. Making a move like that could send repercussions that last the rest of the series.
–Not the best Brian Campbell game I’ve ever seen. Joel Quenneville agreed only playing Campbell for 13 minutes. Brent Sopel played 21. That probably has to flip-flop otherwise there’s going to be a record number of coronaries in the Chicagoland area before a winner is crowned.
–Game 2 on Monday; it might be a little different than this one, but not much. Keep that seat belt tight.