Prior to Sunday’s all important game 5 matchup between Chicago and Philadelphia seemingly had all positives and advantages pointed in favor of the Flyers. Rightly so as the new version of the broadstreet bullies had won 2 games in a row and for the most part dominated game 4 up until the third period plus the Blackhawks really have not looked quite right in the 2 games at Wachovia. Chicago stepped up to the plate and came out with a decisive 7-4 victory on home ice in front of over 22,000 which are arguably the craziest and loudest fans in the NHL.
Joel Quenneville’s somewhat surprising line up changes proved to be exactly what the Hawks needed to get out of their so-called slump.
Quenneville created a line of Toews, Hossa, and Kopecky as the first unit which proved to be a decent line with 2 great puck possession player’s and a banger with good size in Kopecky. The stats did not look great for this line but they were very effective overall and did create as they had 13 shots on goal as a line. The Flyers seemed to have their shutdown line and shut down defensive pair concentrate on that particular combination but the issue for Philly was there were 2 other serious threat lines now that the stars were split up. As I have been boasting all year that Kane should be with Sharp they were once again re-united plus having banger Andrew Ladd on the line proved to be a perfect match. The Sharp line ended up with a combined 5 points and a + 3 on the night. The most impressive was the Bolland line having Versteeg and Byfuglien flanking “the rat” proved to be an unstoppable force with that combination providing 9 points, a +9 rating and 6 shots on goal. The final line had 20 goal scorer Troy Brouwer, cagey veteran John Madden and Ben Eager rounding it out. Can you say depth? Can a team shut down that many good lines? Philadelphia could not last night and if the lines draw in the exact same which I would assume they would be then there is a very good chance the Hawks may just be hoisting the cup in the City of Brotherly love on Wednesday night.
Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook played remarkable and Brian Campbell’s minutes went way up and was second on the team with over 23 minutes of ice time. Brent Sopel’s ice time dropped by about 5 minutes and having Nick Boynton adds some solid muscle and a good physical presence when needed. It seems coach Q is basically running a 5 d-man operation with Boynton filling in when needed and that most definitely worked out for game 5.
Is there yet another goalie decision to be made for the Flyers?
Doubt it. But many might be questioning Leighton as he has allowed 5 goals in his last 2 periods of play and only a mere 25 shots against. In Leighton’s defense he made some key saves in the first 10 minutes of the game but I think most will agree he looked shaky again much alike game 1 and 2 of the series. While many think Leighton is a shoe in for game 6 in a must win situation I would not completely count out Boucher. Boucher last night looked like he has his mobility back and really did not have a chance on any of the goals that got by him. Leighton has showed in the playoffs thus far he is able to come back from a questionable start but how will he do in a must win situation in front of an insane intense crowd in Philadelphia? If Leighton does start he will be on an extremely short leash and I’m talking about a 1 bad goal leash.
Is Chris Pronger worn out?
It’s safe to say the Flyers MVP this series was the worst Flyer on the ice last night being on for 6 goals against and a -5 on the night and also getting crushed into the boards on numerous occasions which we do not see much of on this guy. Will Pronger have a bounce back game in a must win situation on Wednesday night? I would assume so but if anyone needs 2 solid days rest it would be him and if he does not skate in practice during those 2 days it’s obvious he is a hurting unit. Timonen was the Flyers best player last night as he had an extremely solid game creating offensively and playing a solid defensive game on top of that.
The officiating whining from NHL fans has got to be driving some people nuts.
I will admit the referees and officiating in the NHL is a joke but what can we do about it? I will say time after time again a team will overcome brutal officiating in a 7 game series and I honestly believe that. There are no conspiracies I guarantee you that, if there were then Phoenix would be in the Stanley Cup right now right? The worst officiating I have ever seen in any series in my time watching hockey was the Vancouver/Los Angeles series where the Canucks were getting penalties that looked somewhat made up. They overcame that issue and won the series. Has the refereeing cost any teams a series so far this year in the playoffs? Nope. There are missed calls both ways on all teams, there are calls that make no sense whatsoever, there are incorrect players going to the penalty box on calls that 2 officials and 2 linesman can not even get right. YES our officials are blind clueless donkeys but what can we do about it? Not much.
I guess it’s frustrating reading many hockey blog sites and message boards etc. and all the commenters do is whine about the officiating from both sides over and over again. I am sure by now the NHL has heard the fans opinions of it and surely the NHL brass has to be concerned. While Bettman and co. are not really vocal about it I guarantee you this a major concern that hopefully they will address in the off-season.
What happens in game 6 in Philadelphia on Wednesday evening?
I am not one for predictions because this year they are pretty much just guesses by anyone even if they are supported by facts and this season with so many NHL teams being so close in skill you can throw the stats out the window. Prior to last night’s game I threw out a prediction that the Hawks would win convincingly last night and they did and no I don’t expect a pat on the back as I only know myself and JJ over at HB predicted the same. Everyone and their dog predicted a tight game and possibly an OT ending.
If the Flyers can not find a way to stop all 3 lines from creating they are in a lot of trouble, If coach Q implemented this spread out offense earlier in this series who knows what the series would be at right now. With a possible suspension looming on Hartnell (which I doubt will happen) and his apparent knee injury along with questionable goaltending, a tired Pronger and Flyer defensive corp plus all of the pressure of a must win situation do not be surprised if this game is comparable to the all important game 7 between Detroit and Phoenix a few rounds ago and that means another convincing win for Chicago (bold statment hey . Are the Flyers capable of winning it all still? Damn rights they are but with a set back like they had yesterday with looming issues it will be tough. Philadelphia has come back on Boston down in the series but please remember Boston is not Chicago…
Here’s hoping I don’t eat my words after Wednesday
Let’s go Hawks!!!
Photo courtesy of Getty Images.
About the Author
Written by Trent Kondo
An all around sports fan and has been a Chicago BlackHawks supporter longer then he can remember. Currently writes for Prosportsblogging.com on the Blackhawks and NHLHotstove.com on the Edmonton Oilers. (If you would like to email feel free to contact Trent at TKONHOCKEY@gmail.com )