Flyers get Game 3 win in overtime (4-3) to make series Blackhawks 2, Flyers 1
Unlike regular reason hockey, if a Stanley Cup Final (or playoffs) game goes into overtime, overtime consists of a full 20-minute sudden-death period. It makes for THE most exciting, heart-stopping wins in sports; who can score first?
In Game 3 in Philadelphia, the Flyers won their first game of the series, 4-3, in OT.
The game started off solid, with the Hawks looking sharp and clean, playing their kind of hockey: fast. They looked really good for the first ten minutes or so; they had some solid shots on goal, including one by Kane that managed to clang off the post.
Then the Flyers started turning up the physicality, and unfortunately the Blackhawks responded in the wrong way, resulting in Marian Hossa being sent to the box for slashing at 13:54. The Flyers took that opportunity to score on the power play.
Amazingly, there ended up being only 3 penalties per side, but there could've - should've - been double that for the Flyers. The two refs tonight were Dan O'Halloran and Bill McCreary - the same two who had were on the ice for Game 1 - and to absolutely nobody's surprise, some blatant penalties done by Flyers players were not whistled, among them, Chris Pronger cross-checking Dustin Bufyglien in the Flyers crease area, Kris Versteeg took a hit to the back of the head by Scott Hartnell - hard enough to knock Versteeg's helmet off, and Jeff Carter hit Bufyglien from behind near the net. Those were just the ones I saw; there were probably more. If the Flyers have any talent, it's in being sneaky about their hits; but in these cases, they were highly visible and nobody called them on it.
It wasn't ignored by sportscasters, either; at least one publicly noted the double standards going on in Philly's favor.
The Hawks dominated the first and second periods, and were even leading 3-2 early in the third on a goal by Patrick Kane, when Philadelphia scored 20 seconds later to tie the score up at 3-all. I'm not saying it took the wind out of the Hawks sails or that they sat on their heels, but the score sheet says it all: while SOGs were nearly even by the end of the 2nd period, the Flyers dominated the third with 15 SOGs while the Hawks took only 4.
The strange here is that leading into this series, and including game 1, the Blackhawks have been an incredibly dominant force in the third period. And you don't have to be a longtime hockey fan to see that the Flyers generally look more tired than the Hawks when the third period rolls around; there's something to be said for youth.
Coach Quenneville got a bit line-happy in this game. As predicted, he started shuffling his lines up a little, and he had some good results - Duncan Keith scored while out on the ice with Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa; Brent Sopel, of all people, scored with an assist from John Madden; Patrick Kane scored while out with Jonathan Toews and Ben Eager.
Mark that: the Blackhawks' 11 goals in the past three games have been scored by 10 different players. The depth is clearly there.
It's a very positive thing that Kane got on the scoresheet not just once but twice; and that Toews did as well. Hopefully that means that it wakes them up enough and they show up 100% in game 4.
Dustin Byfuglien hasn't exactly entirely disappeared - he's making plenty of contributions in the hit department, anyway - but he has been nowhere near effective against the Flyers as he was against Vancouver and San Jose. I might even be so bold as to say that if Andrew Ladd is healthy enough to play in Game 4, that Q swaps him in for Buff. Ladd is a talented player, experienced in the SCF (he won with Carolina in 2006), and he would be better to add into the mix.
Coach Q's line-swapping eventually bit the team in the butt when a poorly-timed line swap in OT led to a couple Hawks out of position, and a nicely set up play led to Claude Giroux making the game-winning goal.
Here's a few thoughts the Blackhawks will certainly be evaluating heading into game 4:
- Where the heck is the Hawks PK? It's practically been their signature move - they've even scored more on the PK than other teams - and its practically disappeared in this series.
- Toews and Kane were better tonight, but they have to be their best. Before this series, Toews was regarded as a shoo-in for the Conn Smythe; but in the past 3 games, he's barely scratched the score sheet. Kane is a sharpshooter who actually needs to hit the net, instead of clanging off the post or overshooting. Kane also needs to channel his anger and frustration a little better. It's good to see him actually doing some checking and looking less shocked at taking hits, but he shouldn't be getting into fighting.
- Dustin Byfuglien has been a star in the last two series, but as I mentioned above, if Andrew Ladd is healthy enough to play in game 4, then make a swap. Ladd has been solid all season and through the playoffs, and his skill and versatility is needed back on the ice. I'm not sure who else they might swap him for; and it's not to say that Buff's physicality wouldn't be missed in its own way, but as Coach Q likes to say... "a little change".
- The Hawks have to not play into the brawler mentality that marks the Flyers style. We saw at the start of the game what happens when Chicago puts on the speed and pressure: they dominated most of the first half of the first period with solid puck possession. When they stooped to physicality created a turn in their play and put them off their game - exactly where Philly wanted them.
- Stay out of the box. Period.
- Which means: don't get baited by the Flyers.
- Play the Chicago game: be fast, be talented, carry the puck into the zone, get to the net, create scoring opportunities, get the rebounds.
- Stop throwing the puck away to nobody, or worse, the opposition; and when going into the Flyers zone, carry the puck in, don't chase it in, and don't give it away.
- Help Antti Niemi out more. He is showing off brilliance in this series, as he has throughout the playoffs, but let's not see him having to make any repeat performances of the pair of 44-save games he made against the Sharks. The Hawks repeatedly said at the end of the regular season how their faith and confidence in Niemi inspired them to play better in front of them. Let's see more of that now. He probably gave up more rebounds tonight than in the entire Sharks series. Expect him to bounce back big on Friday, but don't blame tonight's loss entirely on him. You win or lose as a team, period.
As it stands, Chicago is still up 2-1 and there's still 4 games left to play, so it's still anybody's series. Game 4 is Friday at 7pm CT in Philadelphia.