Hawks-Flyers, Game 1: Take your shot now

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Hawks-Flyers, Game 1: Take your shot now

Friday, May 28, 2010
11:21 PM

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

CHICAGO This is it, Cinderella Philadelphians. Take your best shot and steal a win Saturday or face a painful and inevitable snatching of the Stanley Cup from your bruised and calloused hands.

(Full disclosure: Ive picked the Blackhawks in fiveand if Im wrong, Id say the series will tip closer to a four-gamer than six.)

Winning Game 1 is certainly the best, and nearly only, option for the Philadelphia Flyers if they want to upset the Chicago Blackhawks to win the 2010 Stanley Cup. While Philadelphia may indeed be a team of destiny, its a lot more likely its destiny will be as the fourth team in major sports history and third NHL team to come back from a 3-0 deficit to advance in a series, period, (premature) end of story. And while the destiny stuff is stirring, really, cmon, the Flyers romped over the No. 2-seeded New Jersey Devils and pretty well dismantled the hottest goalie in hockey, Jaro Halak, in dismissing the Montreal Canadiens. Both of those series were sleepwalkswhere does all the drama and destiny kick in?

Besides, until Philly went ham on the Boston Bruins and made them an unenviable footnote to history as victims of a double 3-0 rally, if there was a team of destiny, it was the Hawks. Just 14 seconds from a do-or-die game in Nashville down 3-2 to the Predators in the quarters, Chicago tied Game 5 with on a shortie by Patrick Kane and won it a few minutes into overtime on a Marian Hossa tally.

But enough of the battle over who gets to roll Bittersweet Symphony behind their team highlights this season. The crux of the biscuit: How can Philadelphia win Game 1? Its easy, but it requires swallowing some pride and slowing the game down. All indications are that Philly wants to fly high and get into a sprinting match with Chicago, and it doesnt matter how many Rocky montages they watch in the Flyers pregame dressing room with Chicagos few-hit-wonders Survivor supplying the soundtrack, that strategy aint gonna fly now. The one openingand its barn-door wide, actuallyis for Philly to opt for heavy sandpaper grit mode, slow the game down and demoralize a still relatively young, somewhat impressionable Blackhawks team.

Redshirts fans will scoff: No manner of sloggy or slushy play will deter my Blackhawks from the Cup. While that is a romantic notion, and Im a romantic fella, verdict: hogwash. The Preds, who had no business forcing Chicago into a panic, did so time and time again (Games 1, 3, 5). The Blackhawks came within 14 seconds of having their Stanley Cup dream deferredby Nashville. A team that wasnt too proud to slush it up.

Barring a slowdown game, the Flyers have little hope short of Jabberwocky stuff: Transformers exploding and shortening Game 1; a train derailing to delay Game 3; human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria scarring Game 5, ad infinitum.

This is the series you wanted, Philadelphia. Now go out there and act like you want to win it. Otherwise, by Game 4, women and children will have to turn away from the sights that will be seen.

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

Will lopsided loss shake Blackhawks from their slumber?

Will lopsided loss shake Blackhawks from their slumber?

The Blackhawks have talked the past several games now about how they need to play better, how they need to get back to their 60-minute game. But even when you tell yourself you have to improve the message doesn't always translate into immediate action. That's especially true if, despite so-so play, you're still managing victories or still eking out a point.

Sometimes, you need a jolt to realize you have to get better. Well, that thud the Blackhawks made in South Florida ought to get their attention. 

The Blackhawks' 7-0 loss to the Florida Panthers on Saturday night, that "ugly, ugly game," as coach Joel Quenneville, is the latest in what's been a mediocre stretch for the team. They've been leaning on their goaltending again (please see Minnesota, Montreal, Ottawa and Dallas games). Or they've been leaning on their ability to wake up in the third period after sleepwalking through the first two. Sixty-minute games and four-line rotations, such a big part of the Blackhawks' success through February and early March, have been absent.

Call it the Blackhawks' mid-March malaise.

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It hasn't been more painful because the Blackhawks have still found ways to get points. Or at least they did until Saturday night, when two "yapping" penalties – Quenneville's (accurate) description of Ryan Hartman and Marcus Kruger's unsportsmanlike calls – started the Blackhawks' demise against the Panthers. Players told the traveling media following the game that this was a wake-up call. It ought to be.

Granted, the Blackhawks' late-season issues aren't as bad as some of their fellow Western Conference teams. The Minnesota Wild are 3-10-1 in March. The San Jose Sharks have lost six in a row. This also isn't the first time the Blackhawks have gone through this late-season mediocrity.

Entering the 2015 postseason they struggled to score goals and lost four in a row (five goals in those four games). It turned out alright. Still, best to avoid bad habits.

Perhaps the Blackhawks are in a bit of a swoon because, really, there's not much for which to play in these final few games. They don't care if they win the Presidents' Trophy (and they probably won't). They're currently in first place by seven points following the Wild's 3-2 overtime loss to Detroit on Sunday. Whether the Blackhawks finish first or second, they'll start this postseason at home. 

So is this panic-inducing? No. Is it a concern? Certainly. The Blackhawks can't start thinking they'll automatically flip the switch as soon as the postseason begins.

The Blackhawks want to get their four-line rotation going again. Artem Anisimov returning in the next week or two will certainly help that. They want to get their overall game going again. The Blackhawks have been telling themselves what needs to be done for a few games now. Maybe they needed a wake-up call. On Saturday, they got it. 

Fast Break Morning Update: Blackhawks give up season-high seven goals

Fast Break Morning Update: Blackhawks give up season-high seven goals

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