Philadelphia----Unlike Games 3 and 4 when it was 90 and sunny, it's pouring here today.
Just bumped into a slightly soggy Doc Emrick, who agreed with my assessment (below) about scoring and goaltenders and that Niemi and the Hawks with have to withstand a furious rush from the Flyers early and often.
Good stuff on the chat, click on previous entry for a replay....
Here's the Game 6 preview I filed yesterday:
Just to add, Laviolette may be showing Flyers some video pre-game. He's all about motivation. Not Quenneville's style.
In an unusual Stanley Cup Final where goaltending has been far less a factor than special teams and home-ice advantage, whichever netminder makes the critical saves tonight in Philadelphia---or possibly in Chicago in Game 7 on Friday if necessary---will be the difference-maker who skates off with the hardware.
Through five games, 40 goals already have been scored, an average of eight per game. Chicago, which leads the series 3-2 and can secure its first Stanley Cup in 49 years, has 21; Philadelphia 19. Flyers' goaltender Michael Leighton has been pulled twice for backup Brian Boucher. Hawks rookie Antti Niemi has a less-than-impressive save percentage of .882.
Only one game has been low scoring, the Hawks’ 2-1 win in Game 2, and both teams have vowed to tighten up their defensive play. But it may not happen, given the speed, offense and havoc in front of the crease that these two clubs bring.
“They just seem to be going in whether they're deflections or fortunate bounces around the net,” said Chicago coach Joel Quenneville, “They've been going to the right guys or wrong guys whichever way you're looking at it. I don't think we envisioned scoring at the rate we're scoring at.”
Yesterday, Flyers forward Scott Hartnell didn’t blame the goaltenders. “Good things happen when you throw pucks at the net and you have some sharpshooters on both teams….Look at (Patrick) Sharp's goals --- off a couple of bars and in the net. It's tough for anyone to stop those shots.”
Others have. In the 2007-08 Final, Detroit's Chris Osgood posted two consecutive shutouts to open the six-game series with Pittsburgh, then allowed three goals, one, four (in three overtimes) and two the rest of the way to the Cup for a grand total of 10. Last season, Osgood again battled with the Penguins’ Marc-Andre Fleury, this time through seven games. The Wings scored 17 goals; the Penguins, 14, and Games 6 and 7 were tightly contested 2-1 wins for Pittsburgh.
The Blackhawks are 7-2 in the last nine on the road, eliminated both Nashville and Vancouver in Game Sixes on the road and after some line changes, regained some swagger in Wednesday’s convincing 7-4 win at United Center. “You have to treat it as an elimination game,” said John Madden, who won two Cups with the Devils. “You don’t want to take a chance on Game 7.”
But Leighton is undefeated with a 1.48 goals-against-average in six home starts. And the Flyers, who will surely come out banging and swarming in front of 20,000 orange-and-black-clad devotees, are 4-0 in the playoffs in elimination games.“We've seen this story before,” said defensman Chris Pronger. “Not only on our team, but a lot of other teams during the course of the playoffs, this year and in years past. I think (Leighton’s) the type of guy that can let things like that roll off him and just go out and be focused and be prepared. I'm not too worried about him.”