| CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS |
| PHILADELPHIA FLYERS |
1. Shuffle the deck?:
Chicago coach Joel Quenneville wasn't tipping his hand on potential line changes and none of the
Blackhawks' players we spoke to after the morning skate Sunday knew if the lines would change either. The thing to watch is if Patrick Kane
and Jonathan Toews
stay together or split up in an effort to get at least one of them free of Chris Pronger's grasp. They were together during the morning skate Sunday, but the rules of gamesmanship remind us that nobody should read too much into that.
"We've always gone along making adjustments based on how we're playing, what we like and don't like," Quenneville said. "I think we have a lot of options and tonight we'll look at them."
1. Stay in the moment:
The Flyers have won two games, but there are two more to be won if their goal of lifting the Stanley Cup is to be
accomplished. The Flyers need to understand they have to think of the process now, and not the payoff. If they get too far ahead of themselves, the price for losing focus may well haunt these players forever.
"We know, and I know, that we're halfway there," veteran forward Ian Laperriere said. "(Today) is going to be the toughest game so far. After that it's just going to get tougher and tougher. I really try to just think about the next day and go shift by shift, period by period and not try to think -- I think everybody is like that. We don't think too far ahead. We just go game-by-game."
|2. Own the first 20: |
Road teams talk about surviving the first 10 minutes in hostile environments. Well, the
Blackhawks ought to think about having a discussion about winning the first 20 minutes here at United Center. They have been outscored, 7-3, in the first period during the series and they've given up the first goal in three out of four games. One way to keep the crowd buzzing Sunday night is to get off to a good start, and that means winning the first period.
"Our starts need to be a lot better," Patrick Sharp said. "Hopefully we can come out and push the pace and use the crowd to our advantage with the energy in the building. We know we have to be better and score that first goal."
|2. Stay focused: |
There has been a ton of speculation that Chicago will change its lines for Game 5.
The Flyers, though, can't get caught worrying about who is on the ice for the Hawks.
"I guess it could go two ways," Pronger said of the line changes. "One, they haven't played together that much. So maybe they're a little out of whack. Or it sparks them and fresh linemates and a new look, that gives them a little bit more offensive puck. I don't know. We'll see. But that's really out of our hands. All we can do is continue to get better, play even better defensively, and make sure that we're keeping them in the perimeter and Mike (Leighton) can see all the shots."
|3. Eights are alive: |
Patrick Kane, No. 88 in a Hawks sweater, was a minus-4 with only three shots on goal and five
attempts at the net in Game 4. Kane was not good Friday at Wachovia Center and he hasn't been all that special in the series as a whole. He has 1 goal, 2 assists, 10 shots on goal and a miserable minus-6 rating against the Flyers. Kane fought through a similar slump in the Olympics and came out smelling like roses. With at the very least two games left to play in the season, he has to find his game again.
"You always want to perform at this stage for sure, but throughout my whole career I have been pretty good under pressure and I like the pressure situations," Kane said. "Hopefully I can prove myself again."
|3. Road, sweet road: |
Despite losing the first two games of the Stanley Cup Final here at United Center, the
Flyers are a good road team. Their simple, straight-ahead style is conducive to playing away from home and Philadelphia has a number of veteran players who are comfortable in hostile surroundings. Remember, the Flyers won a pair of elimination games in Boston in the second round and took a must-win game in Montreal last round. Philadelphia must use that experience in Game 5.
"We've been a great road team all year long," captain Mike Richards said. "We've been a great road team in the playoffs. And to win in difficult buildings, Boston, Montreal, we don't want to change anything up from what we did in the first two games. It's just a matter of execution. Hopefully, that will come tomorrow night."
|4. Paging Mr. Hossa: |
Marian Hossa was brilliant in Games 1 and 2 and finished with a pair of assists and a goal.
He hasn't been as much of a factor since. Hossa needs to get back to playing his aggressive game. He has to want the puck, take care of the puck and carry the puck to create plays. He was doing that so well in Games 1 and 2 and that's why he was a force. Maybe the United Center crowd will get him buzzing again because the Hawks are so much better when Hossa is making his presence felt.
"Whether he's scoring or not he's a factor by controlling the play, responsibility defensively, having the puck offensively and seeing the play," Quenneville said. "I think he's been a threat and a danger to be concerned with."
|4. Defense to offense: |
Philadelphia's second line has dominated the offensive scoring for the Flyers in this series
as Danny Briere, Ville Leino and Scott Hartnell have all had breakout performances. A byproduct of all that offense, however, is that whatever Chicago line is matched against Philadelphia's second line can't generate offense of its own because it is too busy playing defense.
"If you go back and look, our forwards have done a great job," Pronger said. "You look at the line that's scoring against them, it's the Briere line. It's done a great job of making them play defense; which, obviously, they don't want to do. They want to play offense."
|5. No more cheap penalties: |
Chicago was called for seven minor penalties in Game 4 and it gave the Flyers six power-play
chances. They only had three penalties in Game 3, but two were for slashing. These aren't smart penalties. They are avoidable if the Hawks just thought about the consequences before swinging their sticks or getting them up. Philadelphia has scored five power play goals in the series, at least in every game.
"You have to find that balance where you're playing hard but keep your sticks on the ice and make sure they're not coming up for those little chincy penalties like hooking and high sticks," Kane said. "Special teams wins and they're pretty much dominating it right now."
|5. Hang loose: |
The pressure is almost suffocating at this point. Both teams have sacrificed so much to
get to this point and now the stakes are as high as they have ever been. One mistake could be the death knell for one of these teams and the players know it. A big part of who will claim the Stanley Cup during the course of the next week will come down to who handles their nerves better in the coming games.
"There's pressure out there, but carrying it around isn't going to do any good for you carrying it on the ice," Flyer coach Peter Laviolette said. "I think our guys do a pretty good job of that. We're not a tight group, we're a confident group. I think that is really important."