Hawks-Flyers, Game 3: Sharks aftershocks

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Hawks-Flyers, Game 3: Sharks aftershocks

Tuesday, June 1, 2010
11:20 PM

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

PHILADELPHIA No matter how you try to slice and dice the Chicago Blackhawks, it comes up a loss.

In Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals, the Philadelphia Flyers tried to run and gun with the Hawks, and fell short in a 6-5 shootout. In Game 2, the tempo remained high, per Flyers desires, but the game started as an all-out slugfest and Philadelphia came out on the hind end of another one-puck loss, 2-1.

Like the San Jose Sharks found out before them, the Flyers are starting to get the sense that short of poisoning the pregame platter of sammiches, theres no way to upend Chicago.

Not so fast. Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger, whose most memorable move of the Chicago leg of the Finals was to create an unnecessary and silly distraction for his team by picking up pucks and throwing them in the trash at games end, claims that Philadelphia learned a lot in Games 1 and 2. Of course, the gangly veteran made a similarly elusive, hush-hush, on the QT comment before the series about how hed handle Dustin Byfuglien, so the big fella might just be bluffing.

Meanwhile, theres little bluff in the Blackhawks game. They might not necessarily be able to account for exactly how theyve won nine straight, as center John Madden laughingly admitted on Tuesday, but they are finding ways to win.

Theres a lot that has gone Philadelphias way so far in the series, including an overall lead in shots and hits. But for Flyers fans going gaga over their heroes high-octane third period in Game 2, check yourselves. First of all, the club wasnt able to push in a tying goal, much less a winning one, despite a 15-4 shots advantage and Chicago clearly panic napping its way to the final horn. Second, consider that everyone and their sisters know the odds against a lower-seeded team rallying to win the Stanley Cup after dropping the first two games on the road (in case youve been under a rock, welcome back, and its just six percent); the Flyers were playing for the series on Monday and couldnt break through with an absolutely necessary win in Game 2.

Is the Finals undoubtedly over? Of course not. In fact, you have to like the odds of Philly riding the emotion of its return home and taking Game 3thus fueling a million and one I told you sos, Flyers comeback tales and Chicago choke sidebars. Listen, a Game 3 win for the Flyersif it even happensis just one game. The chances of taking four of five from the Blackhawks is somewhere in the vicinity of nil.

For now, the most memorable Flyers play of the Stanley Cup is Dan Carcillo plowing over Jeff Carter on Monday, then catching a little what-for from gangly banger Tomas Kopecky. That conversation shifted to the team benches, where a number of Flyers barked at Blackhawks and the Hawks fired right back. You wonder at what point Peter Laviolette steps in and suggests that, indeed, his Flyers ought to be barking a bit at one another and finding a way to send the series home deadlocked.

Well, too late now. Its been fun, Philly. But the Flyers had a chance to set the tone of the series with a game like Mondays from the outset, but chose instead to try to run with the fast dogs. It failedbarelybut hey, once the game is in the W column for Chicago, it stays there. Regathered with renewed aggression and determination in Game 2, Philly failedbarelybut hey, 2-0 is 2-0.

Close only counts when you spin Stanley Cup yarns for your grandchildren.

Brett Ballantini is CSNChicago.com'sBlackhawks Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnik on Twitter forup-to-the-minute Hawks information.

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks look to bounce back vs. Lightning tonight on CSN

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks look to bounce back vs. Lightning tonight on CSN

Watch as the Blackhawks take on the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight on CSN and streaming live on CSNChicago.com. Coverage begins at 6 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live. Then stick around after the final buzzer to watch Blackhawks Postgame Live for highlights and analysis.

Click here to watch the game or download the NBC Sports App, your home for live streaming coverage of the Blackhawks.

Five Things to Watch:

1. How will Blackhawks respond to worst loss of season?

The Blackhawks suffered their worst loss of the season on Saturday in a 7-0 rout at the hands of the Panthers. It was the first time they've lost by at least seven goals since 2011 when Edmonton beat them 9-2 and the first time they lost 7-0 since 2001 against San Jose; the Blackhawks lost to Washington 6-0 earlier this year. But by no means was Saturday their worst effort of the season. A questionable interference penalty by Marcus Kruger led to a two-man advantage, which Florida cashed in on with a goal and another shortly after, and it opened up the floodgates. Expect a big bounce-back against a hungry Lightning team.

2. Lightning fighting for playoff lives.

Every game is a must-win for the Lightning with eight games remaining on their schedule. They're three points out of the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference with a game in hand on the Bruins, who currently occupy that spot, but still have to jump the Islanders. The Lightning didn't do themselves any favors by losing three straight in regulation last week, but they've won two in a row and tonight will be the first of a four-game homestand for them.

3. Keep the puck off Nikita Kucherov's stick.

There isn't a hotter player in the NHL right now than Kucherov, who has seven goals and two assists in his last four games. He's had two hat tricks in the past month, and he ranks sixth in the league with 78 points and second in goals with 38. You know how lethal Artemi Panarin's slapshot is from the left faceoff circle? That's Kucherov, but on the right side.

4. Staying disciplined.

The Blackhawks are the second-least penalized team in the league, but they acted out of character Saturday by racking up 30 penalty minutes. They were also slapped with a pair of unsportsmanlike penalties, which isn't something you normally see from Joel Quenneville's teams. Ryan Hartman, who along with Marcus Kruger was penalized for "yapping" at the officials, accepted responsibility for it after the game, and insisted it "won't happen again."

5. Special teams to play key factor?

On the flip side, the Lightning are the second-most penalized team, averaging just over 11 penalty minutes per game. Power plays will be key for the Blackhawks in an effort to keep Tampa Bay's collection of talented young goal scorers off the ice. The Lightning also boast a top-five power play unit with a 22 percent success rate. Both teams would be better served staying out of the box and making this a 5-on-5 battle.

- Check out the latest stats and standings to make sure you’re ready for action

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- Latest on the Blackhawks: All of the most recent news and notes

- See what Blackhawks fans are talking about before, during and after the game with Blackhawks Pulse

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.