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2010 Stanley Cup finals: Blackhawks play 'their' game to dominate Flyers 7-4

Jun 6, 2010, 11:55 PM EDT

happybuffy.jpgFor most of the first four games – two of which, by the way, Chicago actually won – hockey fans kept asking: “What happened to the Blackhawks?” After all, this is the club who scratched and clawed through the trapping Predators, trampled the seemingly imposing Vancouver Canucks and then eked out win after win against the deep, talented San Jose Sharks.

Yet once the Cup finals began, it seemed like that combination of rugged play and skill vanished. Well, at least until Game 5, when the team stormed out of the gate and dominated the Philadelphia Flyers. Michael Leighton didn’t even make it past the first period.

Before this series, nine of the team’s 12 playoff wins were by two goals or more. The Blackhawks proved they could win tight, close games against the Sharks, but there’s no doubt that this offensively deep squad prefers a wide-open game. In some ways, they remind me of the NBA’s Phoenix Suns; even if you’re (sort of) sticking with them in a shootout, you’re still playing into their skilled hands. This is not a group you want to “trade blows” with.

Of course, one big difference is that the Blackhawks can play tough. One of the team’s truest catalysts is Dustin Byfuglien, a hit-or-miss power forward who hit everything – from humans to the twine – in a big way tonight. Just compare Buffy’s stats with his consistent tormentor, Chris Pronger. While the Flyers defenseman had a career worst -5 rating in this game, Byfuglien scored two goals, two assists and registered a staggering nine hits. It’s no wonder that Byfuglien was named the game’s first star.

That’s not the only area where the Blackhawks played “their” game, though. Considering the troubles they’ve been having, it was great for them to see Patrick Kane score a goal and add an assist while Jonathan Toews had a helper too. But what really screams “Blackhawks hockey” is just how many players were involved in the scoring. By my count, 11 out of 18 skaters registered at least one point and six different players generated the team’s seven goals. That’s the kind of depth and variety you expect from this loaded group.

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Does this mean that Chicago should be completely pleased? No, there were some botched defensive assignments and the Blackhawks must be wary of allowing the Flyers back into games. After building a three goal lead, James van Riemsdyk pulled the Flyers within two during the third period and Chicago fans had to be at least a little bit nervous. It didn’t get much closer than that, but one missing element to their normally dominant game was tight defense (after all, they do employ Norris Trophy candidate Duncan Keith).

The Blackhawks seduced the Flyers into playing their brand of hockey tonight. Chicago dominated the flow, played physical hockey and flat-out bombarded their opponents for the first time in this series. While naysayers will point out that the team put together a flawed effort, mistakes happen at a break-neck speed. That’s a small price to pay in order to play the wide-open style that no other team in hockey – aside from maybe the Washington Capitals – masters quite like Chicago.

Let’s not assume that this one is over, though. Keep in mind that the last time Chris Pronger and Michael Leighton had awful games, the Flyers followed that up by taking two in a row to rout the Montreal Canadiens.

Once the Cup is raised and the champagne is flowing, it might just come down to which team plays “their” game in the final two contests.

  1. Little Tommy - Jun 7, 2010 at 11:54 AM

    Maybe they should keep Pronger out there for 60 minutes! LOL. He was probably distracted picking up all those pucks and forget about the D he’s supposed to be playing. GO HAWKS!

  2. Bud - Jun 7, 2010 at 12:43 PM

    Little Tommy, any particular reason for THAT name??,I didn’t see no posts from you wed or fri, why not??? Pronger has had one bad game and shut down your studs for four, before you go planning your parade, keep in mind that the mighty Hawks heven’t won anything yet, maybe they will but buff is too fat to stay out there for 20, advantage Flyers!!!

  3. Mark - Jun 7, 2010 at 3:33 PM

    The Hawks dominated that game. Pronger wasnt even a factor considering hes too much of a wimp to try to stop the puck from passing right before the open goal score. (was afraid to get hit)
    Their might have been a different story, also keep in mind the Flyers haven’t won anything yet! I will admit the flyers scare me. For some reason they have the ability to center the puck from Iraq and get passes thru the front of the goalie from isde to side th creat scoring chances. That said game four saw the puck bounce the flyers way same as game five when the puck bounced the Hawks way. It has been a great series and game six will be even better. GO HAWKS

  4. Bud - Jun 7, 2010 at 4:27 PM

    Mark, I appreciate your loyalty as a Hawk fan and you are correct the series so far has been great and whatever remains will be great as well. To call Pronger a wimp would be the equivalent of me calling Duncan Keith a butcher after carving up Briere but you and I both know that’s not true!!!!Give a great player his due and the ability to have a bad game, if the Flyers manage to come back and win the series, he will probably be the MVP of the playoff and has been the MVP of the league already and you do not last this long in the league being afraid to be hit, as i would love to have Keith on the Flyers, the reason your fans boo Pronger at the games is the same reason Flyer fans used to boo Scott Stevens but you would be cheering like crazy if he wore your jersey. Your team does have class, I will give you that. Be like them and best of luck to you. GO FLYERS!!!!!!

  5. Dana Edwards - Jun 7, 2010 at 4:55 PM

    And Pronger even got called for a penalty! Lo and Behold, just when you thought he would get away with cross-checking, slashing, interference, and holding about 20 times a game! And Lordy, they even called a few penalties on other Flyer players! Maybe they’ll even call Hartnell once for his frequent goalie interference before this series is over! It’s so obvious the NHL wanted to extend this series as long as possible and instructed the refs to make this happen by favoring the Flyers. What a joke, and black eye to the NHL and true hockey fans.

  6. Kevin - Jun 7, 2010 at 6:16 PM

    It’s funny how everyone is reporting how the Hawks and Byfuglien finally found their games on the same night that the Flyers decided to not show up for the game! The Hawks haven’t had the chance to “play their game” in the previous 4 games due the play of the Flyers, most importantly the play of Pronger. Give the Flyers some credit here, they have held the Hawks to marginal play, including their 1st line, for the entire series except for Game 5. I expect the Flyers to come back in Game 6, as they did after their letdown against Montreal, and force a Game 7. This will then set up a final match-up where we will truly see who can “find their game” and win the Cup. It’s been a great series so far and I hope to see it go the distance where we can let the best team win.

  7. Jenny - Jun 7, 2010 at 6:53 PM

    We have a young team with a lot of moxie. I hope they bring their game on the road but if it goes to Game 7, its back to Chicago and the Flyers haven’t won anything in our house.

  8. stewart griffin - Jun 7, 2010 at 8:14 PM

    easy there homer. there have been some missed calls on both sides and last night was really tilted in chicago’s favor (where was the flyers 5 on 3 like chicago had in game 4). do me a favor though. try not to mention true hockey fans and chicago in the same sentence. you disrespect yourself and hockey when you say that. it’s almost laughable. hopefully, if chicago has a losing season within the next few years, you all show the same enthusiasm you are showing now (like actually paying attention). i guess welcome to the bandwagon chicago. just remember, there are 6 players on the ice per team (one is a goalie-he wears lots of pads). the players wear skates and move really really fast. the players use hockey sticks and they all wear helmets. that should get most of you started….

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