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.
From June 10-20, Charlie Roumeliotis will profile one top prospect per day — 11 total — leading up to the 2019 NHL Draft as the Blackhawks prepare to pick third overall.
Weight: 170 pounds
Scouting report from NHL.com draft expert Adam Kimelman:
The most talented player in the draft should be the first one selected. The 18-year-old has a package of skating, passing, vision and hockey sense that's reminiscent of Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane."
NHL player comparable: Connor McDavid/Patrick Kane
Fit for Blackhawks:
Listen, we know. Hughes isn't going to be on the board at No. 3. But let's dream just for one minute because when the Blackhawks jumped into the top-three on lottery night, the thought crept into everyone's minds.
Hughes is one of the most talented players to ever come out of the United States National Development Program, and is the most pro-ready out of any prospect in this year's draft. He could step onto an NHL team tomorrow and play in a top-six role seamlessly.
Stylistically, Hughes' game is reminiscent of McDavid and Kane: A playmaker, goal scorer, smooth skater, unreal vision, high hockey IQ. He is the complete package. And just wait until he adds some muscle to his frame under the care of an NHL organization.
If the Blackhawks landed the No. 1 overall pick, their center depth for the next 7-8 years could've consisted of Hughes, Dylan Strome and Jonathan Toews. Alright, now back to reality.
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Kelly Crull and Tony Andracki check in from Wrigley Field after the Cubs split the first leg of the Crosstown Classic with the White Sox.
Kelly and Tony discuss the breaking news of top pitching prospect Adbert Alzolay's promotion to the big leagues and what his role could be with the Cubs (2:15), and assess where the Cubs stand as they continue their long homestand, including the recent offensive downturn and Yu Darvish taking a step forward (7:30).
Cubs Talk Podcast