For the Blackhawks, a return home to the raucous "Madhouse on Madison" brings the benefits of a passionate crowd and an atmosphere in which the Hawks have enjoyed success. But as coach Joel Quenneville pointed out, if the Blackhawks don't play better and battle harder in Game 5 than in the two games in Philadelphia, then the atmosphere won't mean much.
"I think we have had stretches in there where we know we can be better," Quenneville assessed of the two losses in Philadelphia. "I thought the first game was one of those games where there's a Finals jittery-type of game. But I thought we progressed in the second game. Had some good stretches in Games 3 and 4, but not to the level we need to be effective. I think there's another level for us to get to. And I think it starts more in the battle areas and having the puck more.
"I think we can be more tenacious in there, and I know we've been taking more than our share of penalties," Quenneville said. "It doesn't mean we have to be undisciplined by being more competitive in the puck areas and winning more of our puck battles. I think that goes with why they are a little more effective in having more power-plays than us. But certainly I think we have to draw penalties by how competitive we are in the puck areas."
The possibility exists that Quenneville may juggle his lines for Game 5, a move he started to make in Game 4. The idea is to get Jonathan Toews
and Patrick Kane
on track, perhaps by getting them away from Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger.
"Whether it's Buff (Dustin Byfuglien) against Pronger, whoever is against Pronger, I think that's something we'll see if that will be a matchup going forward," Quenneville said. "I still think we have some versatility as far as who is going to be against him or something they have to consider as well. But I think we still want to be hard against him. We still want to make him turn and make him play defensive and make him play from the back end. He's what he is. We have to be more physical and we have to be harder on him and make it tougher."
"There were quite a few changes, I thought," Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said of Chicago in Game 4. "You know, they changed their lines, more than once. They stopped changing for the match, which they did for Game 3. They didn't do that in Game 4. I thought their system and their approach to the game had changed. There's quite a bit of change from Game 3 to Game 4. They are trying to play a more aggressive game."
Whatever moves Quennevile makes, his players are supportive, especially Kane.
"I've said it all along, with our team we have so much depth that if they're going to key in on any two guys, the other line should be able to have a lot of space and room," Kane said. "I think sometimes change is healthy. And you can mix things up a bit and hopefully energize guys and get things going with different players. But I think it worked pretty good last game. We will see what happens."
But Kane agrees the Flyers have presented a big challenge to their offensive game.
"I think they're doing a pretty good job defensively," he said. "I think one of the reasons they're playing so good defensively is they have the puck a lot against us and they are making some plays.
"Sometimes it gets you frustrated and you want to get the puck even more," Kane said. "I think since Game 1, it's been a pretty even series. That's the way it seems like it's going to finish up. You know, I think home ice is huge, obviously, if we want to put ourselves in really good position to have two games to get a crack at winning the whole thing."
"Joel has a good feel for the game," forward Patrick Sharp
said. "He knows at certain times who is playing well and who might not be. He likes to mix and match and find different combinations. I thought last game it brought some energy to the team and it battled back in the third. We'll leave it up to the coach.
"They're good players, and Pronger is doing a good job," Patrick Sharp
said of his young teammates. "It's a decision that he'll make and we trust he'll make the right one. They're going to keep playing hard, Patrick and Jonathan.Pronger in the spotlight
-- Not surprisingly, conversation around the Stanley Cup Final continues to revolve around Flyers' defenseman Chris Pronger and his presence and impact for Philadelphia.
"He's a good player," Chicago's Patrick Sharp
said. "He's one of the best of all time, I guess you can say. He has managed to do it in the old rules before the lock-out. He has changed his game a little bit and is still a dominant defenseman today. As far as intimidating, I don't know if he's intimidating anymore. He's just a good player out there.
"He's really good with the puck," Patrick Kane
said. "He makes good passes. He's not just strictly defense, that makes it tough. When you're out there against him, he's pretty big. He has a big reach. And he takes up a lot of time and space."
Flyers forward Ian Laperriere says he hasn't seen Pronger raise his game in the Final, rather the big defenseman has been a consistent presence all season and through the playoffs.
"I think he's the same," Laperriere said. "I'm just shocked he's not up there for Defenseman of the Year. I saw him game in and game out and the way he plays and the minutes he plays. It's amazing. It's not like he's a little guy out there who skates and doesn't touch anybody. He plays 30 minutes and he runs everybody over, and everybody run into his elbows, I should say.
But he's amazing. He's one of a kind. And we're lucky to have him on our team."
For his part, Pronger isn't buying into himself as a huge factor.
"I don't necessarily think it's that," Pronger said. "If you go back and look, our forwards have done a great job. You look at the line that's scoring against them, it's the Briere line. That's done a great job of making them play defense, which, obviously, they don't want to do. They want to play offense. They want to have the puck. They want to control the pace of the game, control the game that way.
"That line has done a great job of controlling the tempo of the game and controlling the puck and making them play in the areas where they don't want to.
"This game is five man units on the ice having chemistry. We've done a pretty good job of that thus far."Chemistry lesson
-- Necessity is said to be the mother of invention and such was the case for Flyers coach Peter Laviolette when he threw together a line of Daniel Briere, Ville Leino and Scott Hartnell.
"When he put us together, I think there was so many injuries that that's what was left, I guess," Briere said. "Ville had been a scratch. I had played wing for most of the year. Scotty had a lot of struggles. So, three guys that were searching for themselves at that point, but sometimes chemistry is a weird thing. (It's) something you can't really explain. We started playing together and it just clicked right away."
Hartnell has been a bull in this Final. Briere a strong offensive performer and Leino a revelation, a player who has gone from a healthy scratch to a player who is now a legitimate Conn Smythe Trophy candidate.
"I thought Scott Hartnell played a very strong game all over the ice," Briere said after Game 3. "He was strong on the puck. He made a lot happen. He was in front of (Antti) Niemi's face, or crease the whole night. We get rewarded with a few points. Ville was the same. He was dancing out there. Strong on the puck."
Both those trends continued in Game 4, where Hartnell had an assist and Leino the game-winning goal that broke a Flyers record for most goals by a rookie with his seventh and also most points with 16. His 16 points are tied with Jeremy Roenick for most by an NHL rookie, which Roenick established with the Blackhawks in 1990. "It's been a pleasure playing with those two guys lately," Briere said. "When things like that happen and chemistry clicks, you try to ride the wave. You don't ask questions. You just want to play and spend as much time as possible on the ice."
Author: Phil Coffey | NHL.com Sr. Editorial Director