A lot of people believed that it was just a matter of time before Philadelphia made a comeback in this series, and they were right. With the Stanley Cup playoffs making its way to their home turf, you could sense a momentum shift. The excitement, the crazed orange fan base, God Bless America, and even the demeanor of the players themselves, all pointed towards a comeback.
Adversity, after all, is what defines a team of destiny. Nobody’s interested in watching sports films centered around gifted players who don’t have to work for anything; we all like the underdog. We want to cheer them on, watch them train and develop, get taken down and then jump back up again to beat their opponent. If it’s not going to be a struggle, why bother?
Chicago was the clear favourite in this series and going up two games in this series made them look like a lock. But only the die hard Blackhawks fan is interested in seeing a series sweep. Now we’ve got a series.
The Mane Man
It was an all-out hair showdown between two all star players. In one corner, Scott Hartnell with the curly mullet and beard combination worthy of an extra on Braveheart, bringing his experience and physical presence to the main stage. In the other corner, Patrick Kane and his mullet revival, following in the tradition of Jagr’s ‘business up top and party in the back’ principle, bringing youth and energy to the Hawks top line. Both stars got up on the board last night, but the clear winner was Hartnell.
With 3 points on the night and relentless checks, Hartnell was a true warrior on ice. Hard work is part of what defines this Philadelphia team and Hartnell was living proof that this works. He checked hard, he cycled fast, and he positioned himself well throughout the night. His little back pass to Briere on the first goal of the game was just magic and his tip on Pronger’s shot for the second goal was a result of good positioning and aggression in front of the net.
He was just as aggressive on the opposition, finishing all of his checks and it even looked like he took himself out at some points in the game. His game was sharp and consistent.
For his part, Kane finally ended his goal drought with an assist to Keith and a big goal in the third, with Toews picking up the assist. This big line is beginning to produce and they may have taken the wind out of the Flyers’ sails with that third period breakaway goal, if it hadn’t been for some incredible support from Ville Leino, who scored only 20 seconds afterwards, tying it up back at 3 and forcing this game to overtime. While Hartnell wins the Mane Man distinction, he got a lot of great help.
Et les francais…
Bon match for Briere and Giroux, who were incredible for the Flyers last night. Briere was all over the ice and showing off his puck handling skills through the zone, making good things happen for this team. Giroux got the surprise overtime game winner, proving that he can perform in a clutch situation. Good control on both sides of the ice and awareness characterize the quality of these two Frenchmen and their play. It’s good to have the French on board.
The goaltenders have bounced back well from the first blow out game in this series. Niemi has worked on his rebound control and his nerves seem to be in check. The Unflappable Finn is living up to his billing, although there are probably some shots that he would like back.
Leighton, for his part, has been a bit more aggressive in his paint. There is a certain edge to his game that he brought out in the first period, running out to challenge and giving Byfuglien a few taps when he got too close to the crease. He could have played smarter on Kane’s breakaway goal, but that will just be another lesson to notch under his belt.
It’s important to know that these two goalies are still learning. Every game is another chance to learn the gaps in their game and to fix them. They are getting better as this series rolls along with more realistic scores, shaking off the jitters and the soft goals and coming up big when they need to.
If Leighton can take a lesson from Niemi, it should be on how to use his size. These guys are both big, but they need to use this effectively. Niemi’s oversized pads have been an effective way to cover more net. While it’s not necessary for Leighton to change up his equipment, he should use his size to take up more space away from the offense and learn to outwait shooters. He could’ve had Kane on that breakaway; next time.
The Rough Stuff
Pronger and Byfuglien are great stories in this series. Pronger continues to entertain, mystify and aggravate with his antics, whether it’s the now notorious puck gate incident or big displays for refs, you can’t ignore this guy. Byfuglien with his football physique and a few choice words of his own, also manages to get things started on the ice. This man is credited with taking out the Canucks purely through frustration, but there’s some frustration of his own in this series.
Byfuglien took two penalties in this game, including one for the fisticuffs at the end of the first period. He might have met his match in Pronger when it comes to pushing, shoving and mouthing off.
Philadelphia capitalized on their chances and made good use of their powerplays. They played a consistent, strong game and all of their lines were active, if not producing. This could easily have been a blowout game, with some near misses for Richards and Carter being robbed in overtime. Now that they have their feet going, it’s only a matter of time before they get up on the board. This was another tight game with Philadelphia winning 4-3, but like the games before, it was not as tight as it seemed. Chicago clearly outplayed Philly in the first two matchups in the Madhouse. Philadelphia’s picked themselves up.
Now it’s going to get interesting.
About the Author
Written by Mika Oehling
Office worker and sports nerd. Cannot play a professional sport to save my life, but love to write. Prone to rants, raves, snarky humour and caustic commentary. My team's the Ottawa Senators. Author of Armchair Hockey, a work of humourous fiction released this year and available for sale online at Chapters and Amazon.