Hawk Talk: Blackhawks-Flyers, head-to-head


Hawk Talk: Blackhawks-Flyers, head-to-head

Friday, May 28, 20109:47 AM

By Brett Ballantini

Just a shootout shot from tee times, the Philadelphia Flyers snuck into the postseason as a No. 7 seed and have proceeded to set the NHL on its ear (in addition to validating the faith of the esteemed pucks bible The Hockey News, who in preseason tabbed the Flyers as the 2010 Stanley Cup winner, somewhere along the way issued a full retraction in some form or fashion and doubtlessly now has popped a few Molsons to celebrate its foresight). Foremost in the ear-setting was Philadelphias extraordinary double-3-0 comeback on the Boston Bruins in the semis, rallying from both a 3-0 deficit in the series and a 3-0 score in the deciding Game 7.But the bad news for the Cinderella Flyers is that an awfully large pumpkin awaits them in the Stanley Cup Finals: the Chicago Blackhawks. And this pumpkin wont be for carving or baking -- it will be smashing. The Blackhawks enter the Final as overwhelming favorites, and there is little evidence anyone can unearth that wont involve pixie dust, fairy tales and moonbeams to support a Philadelphia upset. But with Game 1 still five days away and for the sake of evenhandedness at the outset, here are three key ways to beat the Flyers -- and the Blackhawks.

How to Beat the Flyers
Speed kills: The last two Blackhawks playoff opponents, the Vancouver Canucks and San Jose Sharks, have been fair matches for the blinding speed Chicago brings to the ice, and the Hometown Heroes blew right past them. What will happen, then, to the fair Flyers charged with slowing this locomotive down? The Blackhawks boast depth on both ends of the rink that is laced with blinding speed and few NHL teams, including the Flyers, can keep up with them. It could be a smokescreen, but after scoring the most goals in the first three rounds of the playoffs and beating the Blackhawks in the regular season, Philadelphia appears to believe it can skate with the Hawks -- and that is simply not the case. If Philadelphia studies the tape and sees that a slushy pucks strategy will slow and frustrate the Blackhawks (see: Predators, Nashville), the underdogs may jump up and pop the Blackhawks in the mouth for a Game 1, smash-and-dash upset, which could turn the series as a whole on its ear. But if the Flyers proudly opt to skate stride-for-stride with Chicago, theyll need not pack their bags for a return trip west.

The Buffer: Who among you brave Philadelphians bearing sweaters lorange dare face up to ascendant playoff star Dustin Byfuglien? Byfuglien vs. Chris Pronger is the storyline of the series, but the veteran defenseman has as much as admitted theres little he can do to move Buff when hes double-parked, so short of Vulcan mind-meld, all 6-foot-6 of the estimable Prongs will fall short, as his predecessors did. Meanwhile, the Blackhawks manchild has run wild playing deep, to the tune of a team-high eight playoff goals attained in just his past eight games and an NHL postseason-leading four game-winning goals, which includes three in the San Jose series alone. This story of a low depth-chart forward bumped back to defense due to late-season injuries whos now flourishing on Chicagos top line alongside minty fresh superstars Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews is nothing short of extraordinary. And the bad news for Philadelphia is that its a story due to continue, as the Flyers are ill-equipped to corral Big Buffs combination of size and quickness -- yes, even the skilled and savvy Pronger will fall short. Byfuglien has foiled both Roberto Luongo and Evgeni Nabokov -- to what form of rubble will he reduce Michael Leighton?

Possess the puck: There is no greater key to Chicagos domination of the 2009-10 regular season than its ability on both ends of the ice to simply strong-arm and suffocate the game by never letting go of the puck. Chicagos shot differential of plus-9, the third-biggest of any team in the post-lockout era, is a distinct measure of playoff success. Against Nashville, Chicago stumbled, drawn into some sloggy play and were missing their ace in the hole for puck possession, Brian Campbell. Chicagos shot differential for the series was a mere plus-2.3, but with Campbell back on the ice, the discrepancy between the Hawks and Preds was marked. The Blackhawks boasted good enough balance on both ends to have gone Globetrotter on the Vancouver Canucks and puck possession was the single-most important aspect of their relatively easy semis win. And against San Jose, the Blackhawks let through an uncommonly high number of shots -- forcing Antti Niemi to stop a career-best 44 attempts in Game 1, then forcing him to duplicate the feat in Game 3 -- yet mostly controlled the tone and tenor of all four games. Philadelphia has proven a capable possession team, or at the very least one that can simply eliminate shots reaching goal with its defensive talent and depth, but when Chicago puts itself in position to play keepaway until daylight to the goaltender breaks, teams fold. Its a crucial aspect of not only the Blackhawks offense, but its defense. Puck possession on Chicagos level is nothing short of a neck-snapper, and will be a key determinant in how easy the Cup drops into the mitts of the Hometown Heroes.

How to Beat the Blackhawks

Visit Smashville: Philadelphia, and its confident coach Peter Laviolette, is notorious for not ceding strategy in favor of matchups, so all indications would be that clearer path to the Cup be damned, the Flyers will not soar against their strengths by slowing the game down and grinding out four wins. But the Flyers would be smart to not attempt to keep pace with the high-flying, deep Hawks, and instead opt for a strategy played to some success by the Predators, and, briefly, the Canucks. Philadelphia has the veteran presence to button-down the game, nullifying Chicagos puck-possession advantage. The Flyers dont boast a defensive edge on the Blackhawks, but the underdogs can determine the tone of the series with blue-line leadership from Pronger and smart, physical play from Phillys crop of feisty forwards, who are capable of taking the game right to tender Chicagos jawline. Based on how the Blackhawks wilted in the face of some of Nashvilles physical pressure, a bit of slog-it-out brawling could go a long way in the Finals for Philly.

Rowdy guests: While the Blackhawks won Games 3 and 4 of the Western Conference finals at home, raising their postseason slate to 5-3 in the United Center, Chicago is clearly playing better on the road. The Flyers are 5-4 on the road in the playoffs and have acquitted themselves very well in road openers, shocking the New Jersey Devils, 2-1, to start the quarters and pushing the Bruins to overtime before falling, 5-4, in the first game of the semis. Philadelphia is flying into the belly of the beast with Saturdays United Center opener, but the game might have been considerably more imposing in January, when the Blackhawks were en route to an NHL third-best 29 home wins. As winter has been thawed by May, some cracks have formed in Chicagos home confidence, split just wide enough for the Flyers to sneak out a win.

Soar quickly: While this is not applicable to the San Jose series, as in all four games the Sharks packed the strongest initial punch and the Blackhawks still winnowed out wins, the possibility exists to quickly pounce on Chicago and seize the momentum of the series. One of the few openings the confident Hawks left the Predators and Canucks earlier in the playoffs was a mild and brief tendency to become discombobulated under duress -- and perhaps skating into the Finals as heavy favorites will aggravate this annoying tendency in Chicago once more. With their double 3-0 resume as well as a first-round toppling of the Easts second-seeded New Jersey Devils, Philadelphia has clearly proven it is capable of enough composure to unsettle the Chicagoans. An immediate Philadelphia win in the series is probably not integral to an overall Stanley Cup win, but a split in Chicago is, and any early mucking up of the Redshirts game plan could yield emotional riches down the road. As impossible as it is to imagine with the roll theyre on now, early in the playoffs the Blackhawks admitted being ill-prepared and perhaps undermotivated. If theres one area the Flyers can clearly outpace Chicago, theyve proven its with the so-called compete level. Philadelphia absolutely must out-compete the Hawks -- right from the outset.

The Prediction: Blackhawks in Five

Take a look around the table of pundits and it seems unanimous that this is a six-game series -- and the rare contrarians are tabbing the Flyers. Its no pro-Blackhawks bluster to point out that Philadelphia has already used up its nine lives and will skating on emotional fumes or that for all the chitter about parity and chatter on how evenly the Flyers match up with the Hawks, Chicago was a dramatically more dominant team over the course of the regular season playing in a significantly more challenging conference. Its a speed league, peeps, and Chicago can skate circles around the talented Flyers. Yes, the two clubs may play as if October to April dissolved completely off of the calendar, where under the small sampling of the playoffs the Flyers are suddenly not only the grittiest but the highest-scoring team in the NHL. But does anybody truly believe thats the case? Does anyone truly think that by grace of God or act of underdog or Broad Street Bully mojo or, good gracious, magic of 35, that Philadelphia will be propelled to a series upset?

Flip the script, folks: Chicago caught a huge break once the Montreal Canadiens did the dirty work of the East by beating the top-seeded Washington Capitals and defending champion Pittsburgh Penguins, and for that, the Blackhawks should vote the Habs a playoff share. Chicago will dismantle Phillys momentum right off and remind them that for as heartening a story the Flyers can tell as they look back on the 2010 postseason, in the end it will be a mere yarn that falls short of the Chalice. While the Redshirts playoff journey might not end up unfolding in reverse order of difficulty (the Nashville Predators presenting the most difficult challenge in the quarters and the Flyers the easiest in the Final), Philadelphia will be fortunate to stretch the series to five games.

Brett Ballantini is CSNChicago.com's Blackhawks Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnik on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Hawks information.

Trevor van Riemsdyk out about a month as Blackhawks host Toronto

Trevor van Riemsdyk out about a month as Blackhawks host Toronto

Trevor van Riemsdyk will miss about a month with an upper-body injury he sustained in the Blackhawks’ 3-2 loss to Columbus on Friday night.

Van Riemsdyk was injured late in the second period when he slid into the net, his right arm/shoulder colliding with the post. Coach Joel Quenneville said van Riemsdyk’s injury, as of now, doesn’t require surgery. Quenneville wasn’t sure if van Riemsdyk would be put on injured reserve. The defenseman played all 82 games for the Blackhawks last season but had injury problems prior to that.

In good news, Marian Hossa is now “likely” to play Saturday night, Quenneville said. Hossa has missed the last two games with a lower-body injury he sustained on Tuesday night.

Scott Darling will get the start vs. the Maple Leafs. The Blackhawks have had an up-and-down start to the season. Once again, their penalty kill hasn’t helped. It allowed two more goals to the Blue Jackets and has now allowed 11 through the first five games.

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

“We can’t say much about our PK right now. It’s definitely a sore spot and it’s almost like let’s look at it as a fresh beginning and look at trying to get through one kill, and the first 20 seconds get through that rotation,” Quenneville said. “Let’s take baby steps in our approach, whether it’s a four-man pressure, denying entries or up-ice pressure, in the shooting lanes, make sure we’re clearing, all the things that go into it. It’s been tough right now and certainly we have to repair it and fix it tonight.”

Meanwhile, there’s nothing new to report on Andrew Desjardins, who suffered a lower-body injury in the Blackhawks’ preseason finale in St. Louis. Quenneville said it’ll still be a few weeks until Desjardins skates.


Time: 6 p.m.


Radio: WGN

Projected lineups


Tyler Motte-Jonathan Toews-Richard Panik

Artemi Panarin-Artem Anisimov-Patrick Kane

Ryan Hartman-Nick Schmaltz-Marian Hossa

Dennis Rasmussen-Marcus Kruger-Jordin Tootoo

Duncan Keith-Niklas Hjalmarsson

Michal Kempny-Brent Seabrook

Gustav Forsling-Brian Campbell

Scott Darling

Injuries: Trevor van Riemsdyk (upper body), Andrew Desjardins (lower body)

Toronto Maple Leafs

William Nylander-Auston Matthews-Zach Hyman

James van Riemsdyk-Tyler Bozak-Mitchell Marner

Milan Michalek-Nazem Kadri-Leo Komarov

Matt Martin-Peter Holland-Connor Brown

Morgan Rielly-Connor Carrick

Jake Gardiner-Roman Polak

Matt Hunwick-Nikita Zaitsev

Frederik Andersen

Five Things from Blackhawks-Blue Jackets: Same mistakes resurface

Five Things from Blackhawks-Blue Jackets: Same mistakes resurface

COLUMBUS, Ohio – We’ll save you some time tonight. The Blackhawks lost another one in familiar fashion. You can guess what our focus will be, so let’s get right to it.

Here are Five Things to take from the Blackhawks’ 3-2 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets.

1. We’re trying not to pick on the penalty kill again, but… it cost them again. The Blackhawks gave up their 10th and 11th power-play goals in their first five games on Friday night. Opponents are planting themselves in front of Corey Crawford and, be it screens or tips, they’re capitalizing. Long-distance shots are getting through far too often. “I think our focus always has to be 5-on-5. When our effort and our energy and our work ethic is there it usually translates into our special teams and I don’t know. It’s frustrating," Jonathan Toews said. "We definitely have to keep pushing to find a solution. Even when it seems like we’re doing a good job bounces go against us. We deserve all the criticism and we just have to keep finding ways, dig deep and really try to dig ourselves out of this thing.”

2. The seven-defenseman set. Quenneville didn’t want Trevor van Riemsdyk sitting out too long, and for a few days it looked like Brian Campbell was going to be the odd-man out tonight. Instead the Blackhawks went with seven, which gave them the chance to rotate and put Campbell back on his natural left. With that, however, the forward lines were naturally skewed. Patrick Kane played nearly 29 minutes. Quenneville said earlier this season that it wouldn’t be something the Blackhawks would try often. Speaking of van Riemsdyk…

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

3. Van Riemsdyk hurt again. You have to feel for van Riemsdyk. He finally got healthy last season playing in all 82 games after knee and wrist injuries sidelined him the previous one. Now it looks like he’ll be out again after he went hard into the net late in the second period. Van Riemsdyk got tangled up and his right arm/shoulder collided with the post.

4. Tyler Motte gets his first. The University of Michigan product scored his first career NHL goal, a rebound off a Toews shot in the second period. Considering the game’s outcome, however, Motte’s enthusiasm was tempered. “It was exciting. It felt good to chip in offensively but obviously the real story is us losing another game,” he said. “We were better in the offensive zone but there are still some things to improve on. The most important thing is winning games.”

5. Brandon Saad great but stymied. The former Blackhawks left wing had some tremendous scoring opportunities on Friday. He had a team-high seven shots, most high quality, but Crawford stopped him every time. Just in case anyone needed a reminder of what the kid is capable of, regardless of which sweater he’s wearing.