So now there’s only one win left.
From the opening face-off, the Blackhawks beat the Flyers in every facet of the game. They stopped worrying about the officials, Chris Pronger, and just played their game. Their newly minted lines certainly played a huge part of it. Toews with Hossa and Sharp with Kane gave the Hawks a tag-team duo that the Flyers had no chance of stopping.
Really, the only thing keeping the game from being 6-1 was Antti Niemi’s shoddy goaltending. Other than that, the only big mistake a Blackhawk not named Brent Sopel or Nick Boynton were guilty of was Duncan Keith foolishly trying a one-timer in a 6-3 game with less than three minutes left. Keith’s stick shattered and the Flyers essentially came down on a 2-1 with a stickless Keith. It ended up in the back of their net quickly and made the game tighter than it needed to be.
The rest of the game was a nearly flawless execution in domination. Dustin Byfuglien was a giant among men. He skated with a ton of confidence, punished every Flyer within 10 feet of him, and for good measure chipped in two goals and two assists.
His linemate, Kris Versteeg, put together his best period of the season with a goal and an assist in the first. His goal with less than two minutes in the period chased Michael Leighton for the second time this series. Versteeg picked up the puck in the neutral zone, skated in a 3-on-2, controlled through a Mike Richards backcheck, and fired it across his body to beat Leighton to the far post.
And that was basically the game.
Well not really. As stated, Niemi helped keep this game closer than it needed to be. But in the end, save for a complete collapse in net, there was no way the Hawks were going to lose this game.
—By now, you’ve probably heard, but let’s repeat it: Chris Pronger was on the ice for 6 Blackhawk goals and he was in the box for the 7th. The Hawks punished him numerous times throughout the game, never passing up an opportunity to lay into him. Byfuglien, Bolland, and Patrick Sharp all took turns throwing their weight into him. Suffice to say, this strategy seems to be successful.
–There’s scary, there’s terrifying, and then there’s Brent Sopel and Nick Boynton getting 3rd period shifts late in a Stanley Cup Final game. The dangerous duo were a heart attack in CCM’s. Needless to say, let’s try and keep their shifts to the bare minimum.
–Sopel, in particular, nearly cost the Hawks big time in the 2nd period. With Brent Seabrook in the box, Sopel gathered the puck in front of his crease with no one close to him. He put his head down and buried a shot at the one Flyer standing on the blue line which led to heavy pressure from Philadelphia. If it weren’t for Ville Leino completely biffing the tap-in, the Flyers would’ve cut the Hawks lead to one goal.
–If the Hawks are to have any hope of closing out the Flyers at home, Antti Niemi has to get comfortable and quickly. A performance like tonight’s and you may as well keep Friday night open on your schedule.
–This has nothing to do with anything but Nikolai Khabibulin stole Game 6 in Calgary last year after the Hawks bent them over in Game 5. I’m not saying; I’m just saying.
–The Hawks special teams was a huge factor. The Byfuglien goal, in particular, was a thing of beauty. Every Hawk touched the puck. It went from Patrick Kane in the right corner, swung across the points, to Jonathan Toews in the opposite corner, and then right to Byfuglien standing in front. The puck was on everyone’s stick for less than a second and every pass was of the tape-to-tape variety. If it were only that easy every time.
–Just saw Byfuglien’s post-game press conference. He was asked if it felt any better to flatten Pronger in the second period. He had a twinkle in his eye where it looked like he wanted to scream out, “F$#@ YES!!” before he rattled off a typical cliche.
–I really can’t decide. Is it better for Ville Leino to slay us in this series and avoid him for the next decade wearing the Winged wheel or vice versa? I suppose if the Hawks win it, I’d much prefer he stay in Philadelphia. If they don’t and he continues to channel his inner Steve Larmer, my answer may be different.
Either way, the Hawks have to find an answer for Briere, Leino and Hartnell as they are a threat to score every time they touch the ice.
–How stupid does Peter Laviolette look for dressing Daniel Carcillo in two games this series? James van Riemsdyk scored a goal tonight and nearly created a couple more. At least Carcillo gave NBC some solid video for their pre-game montage when he and Kopecky nearly made out in Game 2.
–Since everyone has been complaining about the announcers praising the Flyers, let’s not let Pierre MacGuire’s 60 minutes of fellating Marian Hossa go unnoticed.