Tuesday, June 8, 2010
By Brett Ballantini
PHILADELPHIA Heading into Game 5 at the United Center on Sunday, the Chicago Blackhawks were saying all of the right things about their pending matchup with the Philadelphia Flyers. The Hometown Heroes were talking more about the pressure both teams would feel in Game 5 than feeling that the spotlight was only on the Blackhawks. Game 5 was clearly measured as a pivotal contest, the most important of the series.
And Chicago came right out like a team on a mission, recognizing the importance of the game without having it freeze it. It was a first period for the ages, finishing 3-0 in favor of the home club and unveiling not only new lines but a renewed devotion to a suffocating puck-possession game.
The Flyers, on the other hand, were as flat as theyve been in the 2010 postseason, flopping in spite of two straight wins (no team had knocked off the Blackhawks two straight times in the entire playoffs) and all the momentum of the series in their favor. Michael Leighton, though a Wachovia Center strangler whos scheduled to start Game 6, was pulled for the second time in the Finals. Chris Pronger, so dominant for much of the series, turned in a career-worst minus-five and was on ice for six of the seven Blackhawks goals. Philadelphia couldnt crawl closer than within two goals of Chicago throughout.
Philly coach Peter Laviolette has pledged changes for Game 6, where his club is sure already to be buoyed playing a must game in its home barn. But after Chicago mentor Joel Quenneville shuffled his lines for Game 5, splitting his most potent scorers from the first line through his top three, you wonder if the Flyers have a true counterpunch. As great as the Philly forecheck has been, the Flyers defense is playing thin, with just Pronger and Kimmo Timonen playing effectively and logging high minutesand Prongs is reeling.
The Blackhawks may not wrap the series up and claim the Cup on Wednesday, but with two cracks at it, it appears the sand has trickled from Philadelphias hourglass.