While there’s been a lot of talk about destiny and resilience, it’s pretty clear that the Philadelphia Flyers have gotten to where they are now by being relentless. Tying up the series at 2-2 with a 5-3 victory over the Hawks last night, the Flyers have made this a series to watch.
No place like Home
There may be something to the home ice advantage in this series. Both teams have managed to win both games at home, giving their crazed fan bases a lot to cheer about. While this is something of a contradiction for Chicago who is traditionally better on the road, there’s something about playing in Philadelphia that brings out the best in this team. The Orange Crush definitely inspires their Flyers, just as their heart felt tradition of God Bless America before the game. You can feel something in the air in this rink. It’s something special.
Doing It Right
The Philadelphia Flyers are doing all the things that they need to do right. They’re playing a strong, physical game and they’re capitalizing on their chances. They take advantage of their opponents’ mistakes, like the bad turnovers and soft passes and spent more time in their end, charging the net and giving Niemi something to think about.
Like many of the previous games, they could have scored even more goals if not for some bad bounces and the post. Richards and Briere could have each had an extra goal and it was just luck that their shots didn’t make it in. Briere had Niemi beat on that post shot and Niemi just managed to deflect a high shot from Richards in the first. Niemi had to come up big for his team and he did.
Leighton also made some big saves in his end. Chicago knows that it’s not going to get a lot of time and space in front of Leighton and they’re going to have to grind more and charge the net. They’re doing a relatively good job of getting this going, particularly in the third period where they came alive for 2 goals, both through seas of traffic. But Leighton weathered the storm and managed to keep Chicago to just 3 goals. He’s looking calm, big and is tracking the puck well. As this series goes on, Leighton’s looking better and better. He’s out there playing for a big contract and he’s on track to get it.
Firing out the Big Guns
The sports analysts all said that if Philadelphia wanted to have an impact in this series, their big guns had to start firing, namely, Richards and Carter. Their big guns knew this and they answered in this game, with Richards getting a power play goal 5 seconds in off a great shot that surprised Niemi, and Carter bagging the empty netter to seal the deal late in the third.
Leino and Giroux are having an outstanding series and Briere is finally looking like the player that Philadelphia was promised. Lots of credit also to Pronger, who, despite being a pest who seems to just love his role, also comes up big for his team with lots of ice time, big hits and smart moves under pressure. He makes things happen on the ice and he’s valuable, despite all his trouble making.
Chicago tried to switch up their game to be more physical, in line with the way that Philadelphia plays. This strategy didn’t play out well for them. It resulted in many penalties for them and too much pressure on their monster player Byfuglien, who is arguably one of the only Hawks capable of playing that kind of physical game without it hurting the rest of his game.
Keith and Seabrook are a defensive pair that is much too valuable for the team to go out there and smash themselves up. They’ve taken a ton of punishment and they’re up to just about anything, but the point is, they shouldn’t have to. Unless they’re blocking shots, they don’t need to sacrifice their bodies. Byfuglien was a one man wrecking ball during his shift, but he can’t be the only one dealing the pain. A highly physical game is just not Chicago’s best game, even if they can do it.
The Blackhawks spent more time in the box than getting up on the board. There was no good reason for Ladd to take that interference call in the first period. Yes, he wanted to assert himself, but taking himself out of the play was just reckless and put the team in a tight spot to start off. Some of the calls were questionable, while others were missed entirely. But it was clear that Chicago was playing a frustrated game and that put them in the box time after time.
Chicago has to play its game in this series, because they won’t be able to win trying to play Philadelphia’s way. They have to dictate the pace of the game and be more aggressive when it comes to creating time and space for themselves. They also have to be more timely. It seems that the Hawks are hesitating or taking one step too many when they have the puck and this is resulting in a lot of missed chances and bad turnovers. Those hesitations are costing them and they’re going to have to stop that.
Do Si Do
Grab your partner, form a square, swing your partner round from there. Everyone knows a good square dance call when they hear one. So what is happening on the Chicago bench? It appears that they are just fanatical about match ups, so the Hawks are switching up so often that they’re often too slow to join the play and the Flyers are making quick work of them. They can’t get good positioning and they’re constantly playing catch up in their own zone.
Laviolette is not playing this little game and is making sure he has the lines he wants, regardless of who Chicago has out there. This strategy is working, though, because all of his lines have adapted their play and is acting quickly to get possession and turn things around. They’re also making good things happen by being aggressive and not hesitating. So it doesn’t matter if the 4th line for Philadelphia is out there against the 1st line for Chicago. They’re being outplayed anyway.
Let’s see if this will carry over into the next game back in Chicago tomorrow.
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.