Nut Up: Hawks 7, Flyers 4
Well, you can unclench now. If you're like me, you spent most of your day anxiously waiting for this game to start. It wasn't even that I was worried about the outcome, I just wanted to get it started and let the chips fall where they may.
There has been much talk during this series about "momentum". The Hawks won two one goal games and had it. Then the Flyers won an overtime goal and they had it. Then Philly won again and thus really had the momentum. They had it all going into tonight.
Well, as my favorite newsmonster Morbo would say: MOMENTUM DOES NOT WORK THAT WAY!
Across North America, physicists everywhere are lying in the fetal position, absolutely horrified at the abuse of the term. They probably haven't had it this bad since Tim McCarver discovered the word "torque".
But I digress. The Hawks decided early on that defensive zone coverage wasn't going to be their first priority, and were extremely sloppy at times in their own end. Of course, they offset this by playing seemingly 90% of the game in Philly's end. The Hawks scored 3 goals to open the game, and while the Flyers got four of their back, the Hawks answered every single goal. Joel Quenneville's going to get a lot of credit for changing up his lines to try and get Byfuglien and Kane away from Chris Pronger (and I think most of us agreed prior to the game this was a good idea) but I'm not sure that would have mattered tonight. Every guy on the Hawks was firing on all cylinders, and even when Quenneville had to shuffle the deck a few times, the Hawks didn't lose a beat. It was great to see, and if they play like this the rest of the series, they will win.
Regardless, let's not suddenly think the Flyers are simply done. They never gave up on this game, they were simply couldn't stop the Hawks from putting pucks in the net. Philadelphia has stared down elimination before, and they haven't flinched. The Hawks don't have any "momentum" going into Game 6 anymore than the Flyers did tonight. Game 6 is a total restart, a clean slate. The only thing tonight determined was that the Hawks need to take 1 game to win the Stanley Cup, and the Flyers need to win 2.
Which is far better than the alternative.
Marian Hossa - It's an odd thing when a team can play so well collectively, and yet a guy who didn't score a goal stood out this much. Marian Hossa has been the Hawks best forward all series, and he was a beast again tonight. Hossa played like he was going to win this game or kill everyone else on the ice trying.
Jonathan Toews - Everything I said up there about Marian Hossa? Just read it again.
Dustin Byfuglien - Manbeast showed up tonight. Buff hit everything that moved, including Dan O'Hallaran and even freight trained Chris Pronger. And he finally got on the board with an easy tip in on a beautiful pass from Jonathan Toews on the power play, then closed out the game with an empty netter.
Behind the Net - For whatever reason, the Hawks have a horrible time with covering this area. Chicago basically overcame that spending most of their time in the Flyers offensive zone. Maybe the Hawks should go back to the shorter ice surface of the old Stadium?
Defensive Zone Coverage - Once again, a Flyer was left all alone standing next to Antti Niemi, and there were a couple of other terribly blown assignments. Luckily, the Hawks remedied this by playing most of the game on the other end of the ice. Still, it'd be nice of them tighten it up a bit, if only for my heart's sake.
The officiating - referees O'Hallaran and McCreary were terrible again. Here's a section of the NHL rulebook they might want to bone up on:
RULE 60: A penalty is assessed if a player strikes another player with a high stick
Evidentally, McCreary and O'Hallaran think that tapping a guy in the face with a stick is an acceptable greeting or something. They missed several, including a obvious one on Brian Campbell as he was moving the puck, and another which nearly resulted in Danny Briere losing an eye (no, it wasn't Hossa).
Up next: Wednesday. Philadelphia. See you then.