Well, four games of the Stanley Cup Finals are in the books and we now have a tied series and basically a best of three series for the championship. All four games to date have been really good ones from my perspective, the best/closest was perhaps game three, if you're a Blackhawks fan your favorite game was probably Game 2 and without much doubt I'd say if your a Flyers fan, last night's game four was probably your favorite. Interestingly, only last nights ended with the margin of victory being more than one goal - does that mean anything? Hard to tell, but I bet Chicago comes out playing with a tremendous surge for the start of game 5 at United Center.
Last night, it seemed the Flyers may have made a statement. After all, they never trailed in the game and at one point they were up by three goals. The final margin of victory was two goals after an empty net goal gave the Flyers some breathing room at the tail end of the Third period after they had weathered a Chicago desperate surge. Clearly though both the Flyers and the Blackhawks have "figured out" the opposing goaltenders. That said the Blackhawks first line continues to be well controlled by the Flyers team defense and ferocious backcheck and forecheck. When those efforts start to give them any breathing room, Defensman Chris Pronger seems to always be there and ready to step-up and hold the Blackhawks' usual "firestarters" Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane in check. As a result, Chicago's second line has been forced to step up and shoulder the bulk of the necessary goal-scoring responsibilities. It's a task that the second line has generally responded to. On the other side of the center ice circle, the Flyers have a lot of guys stepping up though perhaps none more so than Ville Leino and Pronger, though the list clearly has others on it as well.
One thing that has surprised me has been the aggressiveness and attempted physical play of the Blackhawks. It hasn't really worked for them in my view and they've taken a tremendous amount of penalties as a result. Penalties that have given the Flyers the ability to step it up on their powerplay unit and cash in ~40% of the time, they are on the man advantage. I would like to point out that after last night's game, I feel Brian Campbell is one of, if not the, biggest hypocrite and "wieney" in the NHL today. After he got injured when he flew into the boards after the hit by Ovechkin earlier this season, I swear I recall numerous sideways statements that basically said he thought Ovie was dirty or at least that particular hit was dirty because we all learn at an early age not to hit someone on their numbers. However take a good look at the hit Campbell threw on Lieno last night in the first period. Yes he used his shoulder and yes Lieno didn't fly into the boards. However, if Lieno was had turned away like a wimp as Campbell did on the Ovechkin hit, it's basically the same hit that Ovie threw and perhaps Lieno would have indeed been hurt more by the hit. Now I'll be the first to say the Campbell hit on Lieno was legal, my point was/is - why would/should anyone in the league have sympathy or consideration for Campbell. He made zero effort to pull up and avoid possibly hurting Lieno on that hit, nor on numerous others last night. There were several hits where Chicago Blackhawks clearly jumped into the hit with their skates leaving the ice - yet no charging or boarding call was made on them - I'm confused, are the rules different in the playoffs? I think not and in this area I think they should be enforced uniformly to the manner they are called and enforced during the regular season. As should obstruction/interference, yet from what I see that's not being done. Of course the most amazing/interesting thing to me is from what I see - it's not "The Broad Street Bullies" who are trying to take the liberties - it's the Blackhawks generally and particularly their most overpaid, defenseman. Sweet. [Reminder: I did say in this series I am rooting for the Flyers.]
Next game tomorrow in Chicago - Game 5, this is probably the most important game of this series, but of course anything can happen.