Chicago follows up Philadelphia's game 4 message with one of their own. Game 5 in Chicago ended with a score of Blackhawks 7 - Flyers 4 and the 'Hawks one game away from their first Stanley Cup since 1961. The result is that today all around the MSM (main stream media) and the majority of the "blogsphere" many "pundits" are intimating they think last night signals the end of the road for the Flyers. To be sure, last night the Blackhawks' adjustments and line-shuffles were totally effective - yes, I said totally not just tremendously but totally. The juggling resulted in three important things for Chicago:
1) first line forwards Patrick Kane and Jonathon Toews were both able to find some room to maneuver and were factors in the game, big factors in the game.
2) Chicago's own force of nature, Dustin Byfuglien was able to notch two goals, two assists, AND neutralize Philly's force of nature Chris Pronger when they were on the ice together.
3) All the changes and adjustments that Chicago made were effective and Philly's force of nature Chris Pronger was not able to make his own adjustments to counteract them. The end result, is Pronger had one of, if not, THE worst games of his career. In Pronger's 28:37 TOI and 37 shifts last night - he went +/- -5 and the only Chicago goal he wasn't on the ice for ... he was in the penalty box.
Chicago did all that and still had everything else that was previously working for them, work. Their 2nd, 3rd and 4th lines all were solid and effective. In point of fact the seconds star of the game was Kris Versteeg who finished the night at +3 with a goal and 2 assists. Even the world's most overpaid 3/4 blueliner, Brian Campbell, managed to finish the night at +2 and didn't have even one instance last night where he was made to look totally foolish - though he did have his usual number of close calls on that account. So to be clear, last night Chicago definitely bounced back from their Game 4 loss and put the onus squarely on Philly to respond in kind or head to the showers for the final time after next game. That said even though Brian Boucher finished the game in net for the final two periods, it's still unclear to me who will start game 6 in net for Peter Laviolette's team. It's also clear that no matter what happens in game 6, short of an injury Antti Niemi will start and finish it in net for Chicago - speaking of overpaid players whose cap hit the Blackhawks will again have to deal with/swallow for next season.
Of course, this isn't a situation the Flyers haven't been in before recently - win or go home. My only question this morning is given that it's clear the Flyers now need to make the adjustments and turn things around - given they've done it before this post-season, and given everyone always talks about "bounce-back games" for Goaltenders, why are so many people seemingly so sure this is the end of the road for the Flyers? I said before - I agree the onus is on the Flyers, clearly to respond, and I've been pretty clearly implying I agree they have an uphill battle, but I wouldn't count anybody out quite yet. After all it ain't over till the "fat lady sings" and in Wachovia Center when a fat lady is singing this time of year - it's usually a tape of Kate Smith singing "God Bless America" to inspire the City of Brotherly Love's "Broad Street Bullies." I personally don't know or think I know anything at this point. I'm just saying - anything can happen and I think Wednesday Night's Game 6 in Philadelphia will be a great game and a bit of a rough and tumble affair. I'd be surprised to see if Laviolette doesn't make some adjustments and Pronger doesn't have a bit of a bounce back of his own; whether they will be enough to overcome the energy and enthusiasm the talent-laden Blackhawks will have in their steps knowing they can clinch the Cup with a victory remains to be seen.
Just sayin' that's all.