The 2010 Stanley Cup Final is now tied at two games apiece heading back to the Madhouse in Chicago tonight. This of course sets up the pivotal must win Game 5, or does it? In the last five Stanley Cup Finals only one team that won Game 5 actually won the series. That would be the Anaheim Ducks who clinched the series in Game 5 in 2007. Of course a few of those teams were up 3-1, so winning Game 5 wasn’t all that crucial. But this Game 5 is not as important as you might think. Both the 04 Lightning and 09 Penguins lost Game 5 after being tied 2-2 and ended up winning the the next two to take home the Stanley Cup. One thing we can be sure of is that Game 5 will be close. Every game has been at only a one goal deficit or tied at some point in the 3rd period. The Flyers have not lost a game 5, 6 or 7 this postseason. They are 5-0 so far. Let us take a look at the reminder of the series by first reviewing the last two games.

Antti Niemi has really been the anchor of the Blackhawks of late. Though the numbers don’t back it up, he really has been the only Blackhawk playing well in the past few games besides Marian Hossa. Almost all of the goals he has let in as of late, have not been his fault. The defense of the Blackhawks, one of their strengths throughout this season, has been bordering on atrocious as of late. Their inability to get the puck out of their own zone and their constant turnovers in their own zone, has contributed to three goals in the last two games. If you want you can chalk up the goal off of Versteeg’s back as the defense’s fault as well in Game 4, as well as the empty net goal that Duncan Keith didn’t play properly off the boards and a Claude Giroux goal with nobody on him. Well shoot that’s six of nine goals or 2/3 of the goals in the last two games chalked up to sheer defensive stupidity. The defense must play better.

I’m still not really sure why they blew the whistle in overtime of Game 3 after the goal that wasn’t. It wasn’t a goal but the rebound by Jeff Carter was a goal. The refs should have let the play continue and then at the next stoppage, which in this case was the Carter goal, reviewed the previous action like they did earlier in the game when the no goal was overturned. Of course they wouldn’t have needed to review the initial no goal because Carter’s goal would have nullified that. This pretty much sums up the inconsistency of the officiating in this series. On the eventually game winning goal, what were the Blackhawks’ defenders doing? Two Flyers right in front of the net with nobody on them, enabling Giroux to net the game winner on a deflection. Then came the debacle known as Game 4 for the Blackhawks.

The first two Flyers goals were caused by bad plays by Niklas Hjalmarsson in the Chicago zone, who Niemi won’t be sending any Christmas cards to anytime soon. The next Flyers goal can be attributed to awesome passing on the Flyers end or horrible defense, again, by the Blackhawks with nobody  anywhere near Giroux and Antti Niemi playing way to far out of his net. You can take your pick. Next was the goal off of Versteeg’s back to basically set-up a 1-4 deficit for the Blackhawks to try and overcome on the road. Certainly not impossible but not something you really want to have overcome.

From a Flyers point of view I say things are looking pretty good. While they lost the first two games, they only lost by one goal in each game. They went to overtime in Game 3 but they won and they basically crushed the Blackhawks in Game 4 except for a late rally by the Blackhawks in that game. The Flyers are just out hustling the Blackhawks on loose pucks and icings. It just seems like the Flyers want it more. Another thing the Flyers have done well is neutralizing the Blackhawks’ top line and Dustin Byfuglien. Byfuglien only has 1 assist so far in the series. He also has four PIM to Pronger’s only two (not including Pronger’s game misconduct). The four PIM for Byfuglien came all in Game 3 when the Flyers effectively got under his skin. Byfuglien’s main asset this postseason, especially in the series against the Canucks, was getting under the opponent’s skin and forcing them to take dumb penalties. He has not been able to do that this series, though I agree the refs have not been kind to the Blackhawks in regards to calling penalties. He also hasn’t been able to effectively get under Leighton’s skin and screen him. The majority of the Blackhawks’ goals this season has come from their net presence, which they have yet to establish in this series. In hindsight the 2-0 series advantage by the Blackhawks was probably more of an advantage for the Flyers. The Flyers seem to enjoy playing from behind and being the underdog. Where as the Blackhawks can get a bit cocky with a lead.

Keys for today and the rest of the series:

Blackhawks:

1. Continue to tinker with line changes to find the right combination. Coach Quenneville was successful in Game 4 as the 3rd period surge came as a result of the line changes in that game. Coach Q will continue to tinker in Game 5.

2. They must establish more of a net presence on all of their lines. Leighton needs to work harder and they need to be better positioned for rebounds.

3. The defense absolutely must play better. They need to not be so careless with the puck in their own zone. If they need to take icings to get the puck out of the net, then do so. It’s better than give it right to the Flyers.

Flyers:

1. Chris Pronger must continue to play as dominate as he has. He’s averaging major minutes and that likely won’t change.

2. Continue to get the balanced scoring from all lines. The Flyers have yet to have any player score more than one goal in a game. All lines and players are contributing.

3. Michael Leighton must continue to play better. His play and confidence has improved greatly since Game 1 but with Chicago’s line changes and with having two of the possible three games at Chicago, Leighton will be challenged more. He must rise to the challenge.

Alex Mueller

Author: Alex Mueller

Alex Mueller graduated from Temple University with a minor in journalism over a decade ago. He’s been writing about NHL hockey, on and off, since the Fall of 2009. He’s written for Pucking Awesome, the Checking Line and now Hockey Recaps. He played goalie at San Diego Ice Arena. His first novel, Bobby Sterling vs Truth, is available on Amazon now.

Alex MuellerAnalysisAntti Niemi,Chicago Blackhawks,Chris Pronger,Claude Giroux,Dustin Byfuglien,Michael Leighton,Niklas Hjalmarsson,Philadelphia Flyers,Stanley Cup
The 2010 Stanley Cup Final is now tied at two games apiece heading back to the Madhouse in Chicago tonight. This of course sets up the pivotal must win Game 5, or does it? In the last five Stanley Cup Finals only one team that won Game 5 actually...