PHILADELPHIA -- Remember that terrible feeling you had in the pit of your stomach when the Flyers dropped Games 1 and 2 in Chicago? That, "oh, no, it looks like they've finally met their match" feeling? Guess what? It might as well have never happened. It's completely irrelevant. By virtue of their victory tonight, the Philadelphia Flyers have turned a best-of-seven Stanley Cup Final into a best-of-three.
Now, a race to four is a race to two.
And sure, the Blackhawks are going home to a United Center that will be brimming with excitement, ready for them to take another home victory and another gigantic leap towards the Cup. But one thing those Blackhawks don't have anymore is the same level of confidence. Their confidence level is nowhere near that of the Flyers at this point, that's for sure.
Sure, they mounted a pretty incredible comeback in the third period. They threw everything they had at Michael Leighton and the Flyers, and sure, maybe the orange and black even got a bit lucky.
More than one Flyer praised a higher power after the game, with Leighton saying "thank God we won" and Ville Leino saying that "it was pretty stressful at the end of the game at the bench, but luckily we won that game." Sure, luck had a lot to do with the win tonight.
But a win's a win and all that jazz, and the Flyers seem determined to learn from the mistakes they made during the latter half of the third period in this Game 4.
"I think we laid back a little bit more and we didn't forecheck the way we did in the first two periods," said Claude Giroux. "I think we have to learn from that, and obviously that's not the kind of third period we wanted. But at the end of the day, we got the win."
And that's the big picture here. The Flyers got the win. They head back to Chicago with all the momentum, regardless of the third period effort the Blackhawks put forth. In a short series, momentum and confidence is everything. The Flyers have it, and at this point, it doesn't look like it will be going away.
After the jump, some more notes from tonight's game, and of course our questions answered and the comment of the night.
Some assorted thoughts from another looooong day at the Wachovia Center:
- I've written a lot about confidence in the last couple of days. How confident is Michael Leighton? He exemplifies it right now, really. Just about 20 minutes after enduring what was surely one of the most maddening stretches of hockey he's ever experienced, Leighton was calm as ever in his postgame news conference.
Asked if he "kissed his post" at the end of the game, Leighton simply smiled and said "why?" Later, when asked a question about faceoffs, Leighton responded "So, it's obviously important to win faceoffs." He paused. Turned to Claude Giroux, who was sitting next to him silently at the podium. Gave him a bit of a stare, smiled, and continued to answer the question.
The next question, when asked about how often he looks at the clock in the final minutes of a big game, Leights responded with another smile. He chuckled a bit. "I look at the clock every 10 seconds."
- The Flyers are seriously starting to get in the Blackhawks heads. It's slowly creeping in, game after game. Asked about how physical the orange and black played tonight, Brent Sopel responded "obviously, this is what they've done all year. They're in their building with their crowd. It's expected."
Sopel wasn't the only one, but I mean, you can see it during the game. It's obvious in the stupid penalties the Blackhawks have been taking. Patrick Sharp's slash? Tomas Kopecky's high stick? Nick Boynton's slash? There's a laundry list. They're all retaliatory penalties and the Flyers are playing dirty to catch an edge. Wanna complain, Hawks fans?
- On that same note, the crowd complaining about the officiating tonight was a bit much. The Flyers had their fair share of breaks, and I actually thought the game was called pretty strongly in their favor. But while that was the low side of the crowd tonight, the rest of the behavior by the orange-clad faithful was pretty remarkable.
The building was buzzing from 6 PM when the doors opened until.. well, the people cleaning up trash around me still seem to have some magic in them. The NHL.com decibel meter might favor Chicago, but that's in no way indicative of the crowd here in Philadelphia.
- Ville Leino talked about the injury he sustained in the first period on a hit from Brian Campbell, saying that he got the wind knocked out of him and that he just needed a bit of treatment. No big deal. The Blackhawks were after Big Ville Style all night long, though, and it was pretty clear that they're trying to neutralize the one threat they haven't been able to stop by getting physical with him.
Leino had a reputation in Detroit of being a bit of a softie. Just like every other past perception people have had of him, he's proving them wrong.
- Sticking with Ville The Kid, Leino's goal put him in superb company in the organization. He passed Brian Propp for most points by a Flyers rookie in the playoffs. Wait, Leino is a rookie? Technically by the rules, sure. But does he feel like one?
"No, but guys are giving me a hard time in the locker room for that," Leino said. "I'm 26 now. I played in the Final last year and the playoffs last year. I don't really feel like a rookie, but I guess rules are rules."
- James van Riemsdyk played nine minutes, 34 seconds in his return to the lineup. His linemates and his coach were very happy with his play, but Peter Laviolette hinted that Dan Carcillo could eventually get back into the lineup. He said his reasoning for inserting JVR back into the mix was that he wanted to keep the guys fresh and involved. We'll see if he means that.
- Nicklas Hjalmarsson had a really tough game for Chicago. If that continues, it's a huge advantage for the Flyers.
- Mike Richards was Mike Richards again tonight. That first goal? Holy hell. Vintage Captain.
- Remember how the Blackhawks came into the series with seven straight wins? That's all gone. They came in with a ton of road wins too. So much for that. The Flyers have now won seven straight home games in these playoffs and they're 9-1 at home during the entire postseason. Leighton is 6-0 with two shutouts in those games.
- Another attendance record for the Flyers, the Wachovia Center and hockey in Pennsylvania. 20,304 is the announced attendance, beating last night's mark. They also surpassed 1 million attendees tonight on the year for only the second time in club history.
- The Blackhawks lost consecutive games in the playoffs for the first time. Honestly, it's the first time they've faced adversity all playoff, perhaps all season, long. Another gigantic edge for the Flyers. The Blackhawks might not know how to respond to this pressure. We'll find out.
Questions with Answers
- First line. Yes? No? Much better tonight. Richards goal was awesome, Carter's goal sealed it and was awesome too. In between, the trio was pretty solid as well. They outplayed the 'Hawks top line, and that's all that matters. Work in progress.
- If JVR returns, can he be effective? If Carcillo stays, can he be effective? JVR played and was effective. He moved the puck well and generally seemed to have a good handle on the game.
- Can the Flyers continue to control play for the majority of the game? It was off and on tonight.
- Does the third pairing see any ice time? Lukas Krajicek saw a decent amount of time, 9:10 to be exact. Oskars Bartulis rode the bench for a lot of the game, seeing just 3:48 in ice time.
- Will the Blackhawks be able to find an answer for the Leino - Briere - Hartnell line? They tried by getting physical. Didn't work.
Dustin Byfuglien looked frustrated on Wednesday. Same story? Yes. Chris Pronger is on him like white on rice. He even goes out of his way to take an extra shot now and then. There's nothing Byfuglien can do and it's wearing on him.
Comment of the Night
Marriage? Geoff – you didn’t tell us you were heading to Massachusetts with Boosh!