CHICAGO -- The Chicago Blackhawks continue to prove they can play more than one style and it’s inching them closer to a Stanley Cup title.
The addition of Daniel Carcillo to the finals drama added another element of edginess for the Flyers and it paid off, to an extent. He agitated well enough and the game took on a different feel.
Game 1 was close, but Game 2 was close and chippy. The Hawks held their own in the latter department as they have all season.
“Two down, two to go,” Patrick Kane said. “You can’t get ahead of yourself. It’s inching more to the ultimate goal. It’s pretty exciting. We knew this would be a tougher game.”
It was a strange decision to sit Kane for a moment and send Ben Eager out with Jonathan Toews and Dustin Byfuglien the shift after Marian Hossa put the Hawks in front. Joel Quenneville chalked it up to wanting an energy guy out there and intimated the reason for it was Chris Pronger’s presence on the ice. Whatever the reason, anything Quenneville touches right now turns to gold.
A hunch had him re-inserting Troy Brouwer for Tomas Kopecky in Game 6 against Vancouver and Brouwer scored the first goal. Then Andrew Ladd goes down and he goes back to Kopecky in Game 1 of the finals and he nets the game winner. Now Eager gets one shift with the top line -- part of his four minutes on ice total for the game -- and he scores the winner. Play the lottery, Q, you’ll win it.
Patrick Sharp’s line with Hossa and Troy Brouwer continues to shine. They had a great shift which led to Hossa’s third goal of the postseason.
“Yeah, you know, it bugged me definitely not [getting] goals for me,” Hossa said. “Trying to create offense… but when I'm shooting the puck it doesn't want to go in. I try, like I said, I try not to get frustrated, but it's in your head, you know.”
“I was waiting for some, like I said, just garbage goal and hopefully now our line keeps going offensively better and better.”
It’s been the best line of either team through two games and Hossa is a big reason why.
And then there is Antti Niemi. Nothing more needs to be said or written about him. He continues to raise his profile with every passing game. Unflappable, unshakeable, unstoppable. It seems ages ago Hawk-nation was worried, no, despondent, over the goaltending. He’s the most amazing story of an already amazing year.
Now comes the toughest test. Up 2-0, going on the road, against a nasty team on a good day. The Flyers have proven they are nothing if not resilient. It would shock most hockey observers if Philadelphia didn’t bring its best in front of its rabid fans. The Flyers have played well enough but have come up short, twice. Maybe some home cooking will be the difference. The only problem? The Hawks have won a record seven consecutive postseason games on the road. And they did most of it in two of the tougher places in the league, Vancouver and San Jose.
One more road city to conquer and the Hawks will be able to call themselves champions for the first time in 49 years. And then there is the unthinkable: Two more wins in a row and they can take their place among postseason greats of all time.
Ben Eager and Chris Pronger exchanged pleasantries after the final buzzer which earned them 10-minute misconduct penalties. What happened?
“He’s been picking the pucks up after the game and I told him he could keep it,” Eager stated bluntly after the game.
Patrick Sharp had a chance to ice the game with an empty net with just seconds remaining but hit the post.
“I’m glad they didn’t come down and score or else I would have to answer questions on why it didn’t go in,” Sharp half-joked. “The guys bailed me out there in the last 19 seconds…What are you going to do? If I had it again, I’d shoot it just as hard and hopefully just an inch to the left.”
Most players admitted there were more conversations after the whistle. One back-and-forth had Patrick Kane and Ville Leino squaring off.
“We were just kind of yapping back and forth,” Kane said. “It’s nothing I can really say in front of you [reporters] guys. But it was good stuff, for sure.”