After losing both games in Chicago, the Flyers said they were not scared to be in that position. They backed up their brave talk by defending their home ice with a pair of their own wins. Tonight, the score was 5-3, and the game was another thriller.
The ratings have been off the charts for the first three games, with fans and media raving about the pace of play. And once again, the Flyers and ‘Hawks put on a hell of a show. And thankfully, the good guys won! Richards got the show on the road after a stupid penalty by Kopecky. Right off the draw, Hjalmarsson carried the puck behind the Chicago net. Richards snuck up behind him, picked his pocket, and sent a backhander under a surprised Niemi less than 5 minutes into the game. 10 minutes later Carle doubled the lead. As Niemi was down, a ‘Hawks defender had the chance to clear the puck away from the empty net. Instead, he sent it weakly to Carle’s tape, and he fired it home. With less that 90 seconds left, Sharp deflected a Keith slapper past Leighton to cut the lead to 2-1. Of course, we figured the period would end on that downer, and wondered how the Flyers would respond in the 2nd. It didn’t take that long, as the Flyers answered before the final whistle blew to end the 1st. Hartnell stole the puck, dropped it to Timonen, as every ‘Hawk on the ice focused on him. Not even Niemi saw Giroux standing alone next to the net, but Timonen did. He needled a pass through everyone, where Giroux accepted it, and turned to flick it into the empty net.
The second featured a lot more back and forth, as neither team lit the lamp. Chicago continued their march to the penalty box, but the Flyers couldn’t capitalize on 2 opportunities. And if people were disappointed that nobody scored, well, too bad. I was feeling pretty confident with a 3-1 lead headed into the 3rd.
When Leino’s shot hit off Versteeg’s back, and bounced over Niemi to extend the lead to 4-1, the game seemed over. While both teams had stretches where they dominated, the Flyers started to control the neutral zone more and more. Chicago was getting almost nothing done that they wanted, and now they’d have to open up even more. They caught a break as the Flyers were nailed for a pair of penalties just a minute apart. With the short 5 on 3 advantage, Bolland tipped another Keith slapper to make it 4-2. A bit under 4 minutes later, Campbell’s shot hit Timonen’s leg and trickled past a helpless Michael Leighton. Now it’s 4-3, with 4:10 on the clock, and the crowd can do nothing but bite their nails and watch. At this point, Chicago fans everywhere must be feeling that the comeback is possible. They can almost see the tying, and inevitably, winning goals. Their dream of a 3-1 series lead is starting to materialize in front of their very eyes. WAKE UP CALL!
With an empty net in the last minute, a drop pass hops over Keith’s stick as Carter bears down on him. Carter outmuscles him to the puck, and skates in alone, untouched, and finishes off the scoring at 5-3.
As has been pointed out by the commentators, journalists, and other bloggers, the series is now a best of 3. We’re headed back to the mid-West, this time with momentum on our side. There’s a lot of trash talking across message boards amongst the teams fans. Philly fans are accusing ‘Hawks fans of being bandwagon jumpers, for not supporting the team during their lean years. Unfortunately, none of that makes a difference right now. We saw the boost that the Flyers got when they came home after dropping the first two games. Momentum favors the Flyers, but that Madhouse on Madison will do it’s best to swing the pendulum back in the ‘Hawks favor. Bandwagon fans and lifers alike will pack the United Center, cheering on their ‘Hawks. The Flyers must come out with one goal in mind: play the same way you have played since Game 2. Tight defense, pressure Niemi, and create as many turnovers as possible.
The other thing that amazes and concerns me is Chicago’s top line. After the first three games, neither Richards or Toews had done much to lead their teams. After seeing what Richards had done in the first three rounds, we couldn’t imagine him being shut down too much longer. And as we saw, he came through early in this one. Chicagofans must be feeling the same way about their leader. So far, we’ve made him disappear, for the most part. He has had very little room to do anything for himself, or to create chances for his linemates. How long can we keep doing that to him?
Also, Kane’s and Hossa’s speed has been nullified. Both looked good in Game 3, but once again had very few opportunities in Game 4. The Flyers swarm them when they get hold of the puck, attack the puck hard, and don’t allow either of these guys too much time and space. And while doing this, they manage to keep their positions well enough to cover the other ‘Hawks on the ice. It’s been a beautiful thing to watch.
So, going into this series, people that actually know the game, knew that this series would be tight. As Flyers fans, we’re feeling pretty good right now, while Chicago fans must be panicking. But we haven’t won anything yet. Nobody is winning the Cup this Sunday. Let’s keep everything in perspective. The next game of course is crucial, for obvious reasons. But there’s no reason to play nervous or scared. Both teams are close to their goal, but we’re not there yet. Now it’s the weekend. Normally, it’s something we look forward to. Time off from work. Time for chores. Time for fun. Time for family, friends, and celebrations. But this weekend, I can’t wait for it to fly by. Sunday night usually sucks, knowing that work is just an extended nap away. This Sunday is different though. This Sunday night, will be on my mind every waking second. I can’t wait!
Let’s Go Flyers!!!!
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