Chicago’s 7-4 victory over Philadelphia the other night looked all too familiar. It was another home ice win at the Madhouse to a deafening crowd and another offensive blowout with Chicago looking more like itself. Mullet power and the Hawks swagger is back and once again, the goaltenders have been relegated to the background, as useful as the pipes that they stand between. The intensity was there, the big hits, the compete level was high and the hockey gods were clearly sitting on Chicago’s bench. It all looks very familiar, especially to a Flyers team that has been down and out before. Do they have anything left in the tank to pull off another comeback?
Who’s Minding the Net?
We all know that neither one of these teams came into this finals with a stand-out goaltender. Goaltending is not what got them here. But to win a series, your goaltender has to steal at least one game. Right?
This doesn’t seem to be applicable for this series at all. The first game was a blowout as well, but everyone gave the goaltenders the benefit of the doubt due to nerves. Now with 4 games under their belts, we expected to see more out of these guys. That didn’t happen.
Credit the offense for charging and putting great pressure on both ends of the ice. Offense was the name of the game. Both goaltenders had plenty to contend with. These highly offensive style game just goes to prove that without the protective bubble provided by the sharp defense in front of them, neither one of these goaltenders is a major player.
Niemi may have picked up this win and Leighton may have been replaced by Boucher in the second period. Either way, though, this is not a goaltending contest and neither side really wins this one.
2 minutes, please
The reffing has been a strange mix of overzealous high sticking calls for taps and completely ignored high sticking calls for hits to the face. Penalties have been a major factor in this series, creating great chances for Philadelphia who has scored well on power plays, but not so for Chicago, which has had trouble capitalizing on the man advantage.
3 penalties were called in the first and second period, including a unique hand on puck one by Seabrook which should have been a penalty shot. Only 1 penalty was called in the third, due mostly to Pronger’s theatrics, while a hit on Briere that sent him running for the locker room with blood on his face resulted in nothing.
If the coaches on both benches are fired up over the reffing situation, they have good reason to be. It’s completely incomprehensible why some of these non-calls happen and then it appears like the refs are trying to compensate by then calling soft taps which are more than just a little questionable.
This is frustrating to no end for the players and as fans, I think we all expect better out of the refs. I hope that they all come under review at the end of the season, because this is not the standard to which most of us would hold the NHL.
The Hockey Gods In Red
Reffing aside, the hockey gods appear to be in on this idea that the Hawks are the team of destiny this year. They played a quick, fantastic game last night, no doubt, but there were some bad bounces and bad luck chances that the Flyers just missed. Wide open cages, posters, you name it, it happened for the Flyers, as well as the missed 4 minute major that should have been called when Briere got hit in the third. This is not a testament to Neimi’s great play; he was beat on many occasions in his own net. This game could have been a lot closer than it was, had it now been for these factors.
The hockey gods are clearly seeing red.
The Stand Outs
Chicago’s got its game back and its stars are livening up. Kane, Sharp and Bolland all had a great game last night and Byfuglien is doing a goo job of making his presence felt. Seabrook also put in a good performance, tight on the defense as always, but contributing on the offense too with a goal and a helper. Toews is still looking for that elusive first goal in this series and has come close on several occasions and racked up some helpers along the way. You have the feeling that when he finally does score, the roof’s going to come down at the Madhouse. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Hawks young Captain scores the big one that seals the deal on the Cup Run. Some kids are accidents waiting to happen, but this kid is a miracle waiting to happen.
Briere’s play has been pretty consistent, but he just couldn’t work his way around the more determined Hawks. Hartnell looks like he’s smarting from a big hit from Campbell and hasn’t played up to his level since. The shining light for the Flyers has to be the breakout performance of Ville Leino, who has good hockey sense and makes some valuable plays that keep the team in this series. He has 3 helpers on the night, showing that he’s often well positioned and knows where to place the puck to put it away. He’s smart and he knows his way around the ice. But it’s going to take more than Leino to make a comeback.
The Stand Offs
Pronger had a rough night, taking a few hits, taking a badly timed penalty and gettting into trouble late in the third when a bad puck bobble landed into the empty net, shot by Byfuglien. Has he lost his edge? Should he go back to stealing equipment to take the edge off? We’ll see where this leads.
Richards and Carter are having a hard time on the ice as well. They may be victim to bad luck, with a lot of their chances being near misses, and it’s probably easy to start feeling cursed at this point. But they’re pros and they’re going to have to shake it off. They have to come through for their team if they want to continue. And time’s running short.
White Glove Service
The Cup is coming to Philadelphia this week. But it will go into the opposition’s hands if the Flyers don’t wake up. Philadelphia is the comeback team this year and they’re used to being backed into a corner and being forced to fight their way out of it. Hopefully, the presence of the Cup will be enough to ignite the fire. It surely will be for Chicago.
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.