Flyers ambushing Hawks

6 Jun

Chris Pronger, FlyersIt wasn’t until the third period of Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Finals that the Chicago Blackhawks woke up. And even then, it wasn’t until the final minutes they looked a chance of taking a 3-1 lead in this series. The Hawks were frustratingly flat, from a neutral spectator’s point of view anyway. Though I must admit, ever since Chicago put a few dents into my favorite NHL team, the Vancouver Canucks, I’ve grown to respect their tireless and disciplined defense, as well as their rollicking offense. The Hawks soar across the ice when their minds are on the job. They didn’t appear to be on Friday night.

To the Flyers credit, their defense, anchored by Goliath on skates, Chris Pronger, was in perpetual motion, quick to react and disruptive. Every time the Blackhawks looked like stringing a few passes together, one of the Flyers would barrel, slide, shove or spin into the path of the puck, and ruin what might have otherwise been a prime set-up for a sniper. Chicago’s infantry regularly stood half-cocked with no ammunition however. And even when shots were fired during the first two periods, they never threatened Philadelphia’s goal. It was mostly a one-sided battle.

By contrast, the Flyers played on their toes with urgency and purpose, which was additionally fueled by the 20,000 orange-colored fans in attendance. They were first to loose pucks, were eager to fore-check and never cowered from the rough stuff. Dustin Byfuglien may as well have stayed home because he’s just not frightening Philly the way he terrified Vancouver and San Jose.

Chicago fought back in those furious last few minutes, with Dave Bolland’s deftly placed missile from the right circle freezing Philadelphia, both on the ice and in the stands. But the Hawks’ revival was too late really, forcing them to play with an empty net and against a Flyers squad reluctant to hand over a win they clearly deserved. More of the same in Chicago, and Philadelphia might just ambush the bookmakers, as well as the Hawks.

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