We’re two games into the Stanley Cup Finals and the Flyers again find themselves in a two game hole. More scoring-More hits-More fights. That should do it. Here’s my seven-point guide to a Flyers victory in game 3.
- The Flyers are in desperate need of a LeBron James, Manu Ginobili, or Dwayne Wade type player – someone who can finish around the net. The Flyers dominated the last 30 minutes of game 2 and have nothing to show for it. The opportunities were there, they just couldn’t convert. There are times when the opposing goalie is to blame for such misfortune. This was not one of those times. Sure, Antti Niemi was very good on Monday night, but he wasn’t exactly standing on his head to stop pucks. The Flyers were simply struggling to score. Bouncing pucks, poor angles, shot location; whatever it was, it haunted the orange and black all night. Simon Gagne’s wrister from 12 feet with under a minute remaining was a perfect example of the Flyers making Niemi’s job easy (great scoring chance, poor shot, easy save). The offense is getting their chances. They’re simply not converting.
- Someone please stop Marian Hossa. Seriously, please? While he tends to disappear in the finals, Hossa’s clearly locked in this year. (By the way, how bad is it when someone praises you for FINALLY playing well in the Stanley Cup Finals after sucking in the previous TWO? Not exactly a ringing endorsement for consistency. It’d be like throwing BP a party when/if ever they FINALLY control the oil leak. Now back to business…) When Hossa’s on his game he’s an offensive wizard. Leaving him alone in space and allowing him to facilitate will only bite you in the rear. Hopefully a goal, two assists, and a plethora of scoring chances in the first two games of the series have the Flyers prepared for his wizardry in game 3.
- The Flyers went into game 2 intent on establishing themselves as the more physical team. They accomplished as much for most of the first period. However, as the game progressed it was the Blackhawks doling out the hits. This is bad. It’s one thing for the Blackhawks to be the faster, quicker team, but to allow them to win the physical battle is unacceptable. Philadelphia coach, Peter Laviolette inserted tough guy Danny Carcillo into the lineup for game 2 to add a physical presence and set a tone that would favor the Flyers. Carcillo hit everything that moved (and didn’t move-he landed a few hits on the boards), including teammate Jeff Carter. Unfortunately, the Flyers’ physical play tailed off as the game continued and Chicago’s physical play increased. Allowing Chicago to set the physical tone will never benefit the Flyers. Philadelphia must, must, must use their size and physicality to control the game, especially on the defensive end. It will take 60 minutes of physical hockey for the Flyers to climb back into this series, not 20.
- Laviolette has brilliantly pulled all the right strings this postseason, but he may have finally outsmarted himself. Granted, I liked adding Carcillo’s energy to the lineup for game 2 but throwing him on the top line for the first period was a head scratcher. Early on Carcillo was too focused on killing someone than playing hockey. As he settled down, he struggled offensively. If you don’t believe me, total up his ice time in the 3rd period. If it’s more than two minutes, I’ll send you your favorite candy bar. Carcillo is a lightning rod that will add a spark, but he won’t win the Flyers the Stanley Cup. He’s “Portman” from the Mighty Ducks; big, mean, and fearless. Unfortunately, those are his best attributes. When the Flyers started controlling the game and creating consistent scoring chances, Gagne was back with Richards and Carter. Carcillo was on the pine. Keep it simple, Mr. Laviolette. Just keep it simple.
- The Blackhawks top line of Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, and Dustin Byfuidffbjfdbdfshglien has yet to impact the series. Combined, they’ve totaled one measly point. As pleased as the Flyers should be with their effectiveness in shutting down Chicago’s top line, it must also be discouraging to see that their efforts have had no affect on the series scoreboard. Regardless, Philadelphia must continue to control the speed of Toews and Kane, and prevent Byfuglien from setting up shop in front of the net – something Chris Pronger has had success with thus far.
- Speaking of Chris Pronger: He’s a real treat. Pronger took a beating today from Yahoo! Sports columnist Greg Wyshynski for being “childish” and “unsportsmanlike.” All reasonably fair shots. However, this is the Stanley Cup Finals and Pronger has long been one of the most hated players in the NHL, so I’m pretty sure he doesn’t care. If taking the puck after each game so that the Blackhawks can’t treasure it is something he feels needs to be done, then so be it. I trust that Pronger knows exactly what he’s doing. Every one of his moves is calculated. Every move has a purpose. Even if it’s just to antagonize an opponent or draw the attention away from his young team.
- Finally, I think it’s time for a fight. Can we please see a fight? The Flyers should set the tone early with a nice brawl Rocky V style. Not only will it energize the team but it will send the 20,000 fans inside the Wachovia Center into frenzy. There’s nothing Philadelphia fans love more than a fight. Take Craig Berube out of his suit and tie and put him out on the ice if need be. I know he won’t hesitate to go toe to toe with anyone. The Flyers need a kick in the pants. A fight early in game 3 will do the trick. (Also, I was disappointed by the way the referees handled game two. The game began with a high level of feistiness. After a chaotic game one, the two teams appeared to have settled in, both in play and their disdain for each other. Hockey is at its best when two teams don’t like one another. I felt the referees got a little too involved in limiting the extracurricular activities after the whistle. I for one like that stuff. All year hockey is full of fights and post whistle facial massages. Now the playoffs are here and the referees want it to disappear? This is who you are, NHL. Embrace it. Don’t run from it.)
There we are. Seven things the Flyers can do to make sure they go to sleep on Wednesday with renewed life in the Stanley Cup Finals. If they fail and fall beyond 0-3, we’ll be praying for another miracle. And lightning never strikes twice.