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2010 Stanley Cup Finals, Game 5: Blackhawks are in unfamiliar territory

Toews2.jpgChicago Blackhawks vs. Philadelphia Flyers

Series tied 1-1

8:00 p.m. EDT, Sunday, June 6, 2010

Live on NBC

The Chicago Blackhawks suddenly have their backs against the wall. It’s a position these Hawks aren’t exactly familiar with.

They faced some early adversity against the Nashville Predators just as the playoffs were starting, yet since then they have practically rolled on their way to the Stanley Cup finals. They were able to knock the Vancouver Canucks in idiotville, and then dispatched the San Jose Sharks in a four-game sweep; there was no reason not believe they’d easily take care of the Philadelphia Flyers for the Stanley Cup.

Judging by the series predictions, that’s exactly what most media pundits expected.

They Blackhawks have yet to play a complete game against the Flyers in this series, escaping with two close wins to open the series before being stunned twice in Philadelphia. If you break down both teams top to bottom, it’s apparent that the Hawks are more talented and experienced than the Flyers yet have been outplayed for most of the past two and a half games.

The Hawks haven’t been dominated, the Flyers are won two very close games themselves, yet now all the pressure is squarely on the shoulders of the Chicago Blackhawks. Before Game 4, the players and the coaches all contended that they were still loose and confident, yet certainly waited until late in the game to actually back up their words. By that point, they were down 4-1 midway through the third period before the light finally came on.

Simon Gagne and Danny Briere of the Flyers both agree that there really isn’t such thing as momentum in a series, that each game starts fresh and that it’s tough to actually carry over momentum from one game to the next.

Yet after the Hawks lost their first back-to-back games for the first time since November, this is a team that suddenly has a number of questions to answer. Will their defense stop the terrible giveaways that have plagued them the past two days, and get back to resembling the defense that was so incredibly effective during the regular season?

More importantly, will the Blackhawks finally get production from the most important player on the team? Jonathan Toews appeared to be pressing at times, and has had all sorts of issues getting chances against the top defensive pairing of Chris Pronger and Matt Carle. Now there’s a possibility that Toews and Patrick Kane will be split up, adding another layer of uncertainty to tonight’s game.

Now we’re back in Chicago, with the Blackhawks in front of the crowd that has been their spark all postseason long. A loss tonight, and you better believe that they’ll be headed back into a maelstrom of pressure in Philadelphia on Wednesday night.