Jun 7, 2010, 12:27 AM EDT
Just about everything that could go wrong in game 5 for the Flyers and their fans, did. All of their strengths through four games, even those seen in their losses, failed on Sunday night, while almost everything that had gone wrong for the Blackhawks was righted. And at every pause after one of the aforementioned devastating plays, we heard Pierre McGuire say, "Edzo, [this and that]."
Not exactly the cap on the weekend we were looking for.
Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, and Dustin Byfuglien didn't play together in this one, but they all played well for the first time in the series. Credit Joel Quenneville for mixing up the same ingredients to make a more potent mixture. Particularly frustrating for those of us watching at home was that Byfuglien scored twice (once on the empty net) and added two assists, and let's face it, he was a wrecking ball out there. All of the things we were alarmed about heading into the series happened in game 5, with the Blackhawks celebrating to their crappy goal song after a 7-4 win.
Pronger Gunned Down
After owning the Blackhawks decisively throughout the series, particularly the last two games at home, Chris Pronger had a bad game. In game 4, he was a plus-4 and was on the ice for all five of the Flyers goals. In game 5, he was a career-worst minus-5 and was in the penalty box for one of the remaining two Chicago goals. He even got plowed by Byfuglien. They weren't all his fault, not by a long shot, but it was an uncharacteristically bad game for the Flyer drawing the most Conn Smythe chatter in the series to date.
Goalies Lit Up
Michael Leighton was pulled after the first period, with two of his three goals against being soft. It's a shame too, because he was the only reason they weren't down by several goals in the first 10 minutes. Brian Boucher was hit for three goals of his own, with the last being Chelsea Dagger Version 2.
Top Line Shot Down
Aside from Simon Gagne's too-little-too-late goal, the Flyers' top line was held without a point. Mike Richards was absolutely snakebitten, flubbing on two should-be goals. Either or both of those go in, and we're talking about a different game overall. Jeff Carter was quiet all night, and Gagne's goal can largely be attributed to great work by Ville Leino, the brightest spot for the Flyers in this one. Ain't saying much, but he really did have a good game.
Leino Makes History, Briere Chopped, Hartnell… Hartnells On
Leino notched three assists, putting him one point ahead of Jeremy Roenick's rookie playoff record of 18 points, which has stood since 1990. The Briere line worked hard, accounting for much of the Flyers' offense (Leino as involved in each), although it wasn't all gravy for them either. Briere's defense was exposed by Patrick Kane on a critical second period goal that restored the Blackhawks' three-goal lead.
Chicago was again clearly targeting this line physically, and again it didn't slow their scoring. Brent Seabrook took Leino out after Ville had made a shot from the side of the net. Good hit, clean hit, but no one picked up Scott Hartnell in front of the net and ready to jam home the freebie. Hartnell was also laying in the crease/net area when Kimmo Timonen found twine in the second period.
Scary sight in the third when Briere was hit with a huge high stick from Duncan Keith. The Flyers won an offensive zone faceoff, with the puck going behind Briere to his point. Danny started to skate forward, and Keith brought his stick up quickly and caught Briere in the eye. The puck was on the ice several feet behind Briere at the time, and Keith caught his eye with precision. It was right behind the ref, so he got away with what should have been a major. Pronger was the recipient of a likely makeup call soon after though.
Briere would return, donning some stitches under his right eye. Nice try Keith, but you'll have to do more than that to shut down the Finals' best line.
Other Stuff People Are Mad About
Aside from neither ref seeing the high stick to Briere's face, the game was called too tightly at times and rather loosely at others. Early in the second, I remember feeling like they were letting a lot of stick infractions go, and I was happy to see it. Then Pronger was whistled for a weak poke of a hook on Kane. The Flyers had climbed halfway out of a big deficit and were two goals down. Byfuglien camped out in front of the net on the ensuing Hawks powerplay and scored a devastating goal to put his team up 5-2.
Hartnell factored into two goals in the game, but he took a dumb elbowing penalty right when the Flyers were beginning to scratch their way back into the game. He also took a first period penalty right after the Blackhawks had killed one off. Neither came at a good time.
Non-hockey people like to speculate as to what would help the sport gain more prominence in the US. Tonight's broadcast won't ingratiate the sport to a large portion of the series' viewing audience, including the all-sport Philly fans tuning in for the Finals. Ed Olcyzk's Chicago roots showed through (he was born there, played there, and currently works as the Blackhawks' color commentator). I'm not a fan of Pierre overall, and his too-frequent chime-ins and callouts to "Doc and Edzo" made a painful loss a lot worse. Chicago fans were probably saying the same after the past two games, but I'm not sure how he gets the A-team nod over Charissa Thompson.
The Flyers were outhustled end to end tonight, skating backwards for too much of the game. Their zone collapsed quickly under waves of pressure that began with the opening puck drop. None of the things mentioned in this section were a reason why the Flyers lost; the just added to the frustration.
Act Like We've Been Here Before
If we want to look for some good news heading into game 6, we can at least say that the Flyers didn't give up despite facing several big deficits, including being down 3-0 in the first period. Mike Richards admitted to the team being too cocky in this one. We saw the same thing from them in the terrible game 3 loss in Montreal, which was another bad game for Pronger, perhaps his only other poor outing of the playoffs. He should be ready to reclaim his prideful game on Wednesday.
Don't break your ankles jumping on and off the bandwagon. The Flyers have been in a bigger hole than this one already in this second season, and they have previously played some amazing hockey when facing elimination.
They do like to make it interesting though… and sometimes frustrating. Tonight was one of those nights, and it'd better be the last one.
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