Saturday’s game was as fast a game as I’ve seen in these playoffs so far and it didn’t slow up until the final horn sounded. When the dust settled, the Chicago Blackhawks had edged out the Philadelphia Flyers by a final score of 6-5 and the goaltending battle that most had anticipated just wasn’t there.
Philly’s Michael Leighton had been brilliant throughout most of the Flyers’ incredible run, but he didn’t seem to have the same focus on Saturday night. He played deep in his net throughout a lot of it and was eventually chased from the goal to replaced by Brian Boucher. Some speculated that the very presence of Boucher as a potential backup goalie might have nagged at Leighton’s confidence.
In fairness, Chicago’s Antti Niemi didn’t fare much better. He wound up making 27 saves for the victory, but he let in five goals and had difficulty controlling his rebounds. Philadelphia should have learned from the experience and will do more to crowd the crease in the next games in the series.
The game was physical and fast-paced, but it was a little bit sloppy too and that made for a lot of wide open opportunities for both sides.
The Flyers, try as they might, struggled to hold leads throughout the game and gave up three chances to hold the fort. Despite good performances from Danny Briere and Scott Hartnell, it was a questionable goal from Tomas Kopecky that finally sealed the deal for the Blackhawks.
Depth was key for the Blackhawks, as Philly’s Chris Pronger managed to seal off some of Chicago’s better players with strong defensive presence. It took players like Kopecky, Troy Brouwer and Dave Bolland to make an impact.
Through it all, the Flyers were pleased with how they played the game – even with the loss. They’ll hope to come up with the same intensity and coverage in the next game, but they’ll still have to contend with a deeper Blackhawks team. They’ll also have to answer some goaltending questions without hanging Leighton out to dry for a less-than-stellar performance.
Posted by Jordan Richardson.