The first came from Andrew Ladd in the game's opening seconds. The Flyers weren't able to take advantage and after the penalty had ended, it looked like that failure could be catastrophic. The Blackhawks were the dominant club, outchancing the Flyers 5-0 over a three minute span and looking like the much better team. Thus, the immortal Tomas Kopecky decided that it would be just fantastic to take the second Moreaunic penalty of the period; one horrendous gaffe from Niklas Hjalmarsson later, the Flyers had taken the lead and whatever je ne sais quoi it was the Hawks had had before falling behind.
It didn't return until Scott Hartnell returned the favour. The unsportsmanlike conduct penalty was for banging his stick against the boards which strikes me as a ludicrous thing to call. He was on the bench when it happened, so it wasn't a frustration thing and apparently he'd been warned to knock it off already. If it weren't for both Peter Laviolette and Hartnell himself looking and acting like he'd earned every bit of it, I'd be sorely tempted to give the refs the stink-eye but if he earned it, well, then it's an example of ridiculous stupidity on the part of the player and not the men in stripes.
The Flyers had contained the Hawks for the first half of the third period, successfully keeping them away from the scoring areas and even scoring a goal themselves in the process. And then Hartnell banged his stick, the Hawks got some life, another call, and a goal to close the gap to two. When the margin narrowed to one with four minutes to go it looked very much like the pale horse was riding into Philadelphia. Thanks to some particularly strong goaltending from Michael Leighton, the Flyers survived and head to Chicago with the series tied. Scoring chances and more after the jump.For those who'd like a definition: a scoring chance is defined as a clear play directed toward the opposing net from a dangerous scoring area - loosely defined as the top of the circle in and inside the faceoff dots, though sometimes slightly more generous than that depending on the amount of immediately-preceding puck movement or screens in front of the net. Blocked shots are generally not included but missed shots are. A player is awarded a scoring chance anytime he is on the ice and someone from either team has a chance to score. He is awarded a "chance for" if someone on his team has a chance to score and a "chance against" if the opposing team has a chance to score. And, of course, a big thanks to Vic Ferrari for making the whole damn thing possible with his awesome scripts.
The Flyers three-game steak of outchancing has ended but they did keep things even or better for the fourth consecutive game at even strength. This was likely the weakest defensive performance from the Flyers of the series but also by far their best goaltending performance. It was amusing to hear Chris Pronger talk about their sloppy defensive play after Game One and then hear him speak on their ability to limit chances against last night when, in reality, they allowed more good chances in Game Four. I suppose there's probably an argument to be made around quality but I'd be willing to bet that the difference in goaltending is what drove that perception.
There was a really interesting moment in terms of strategy last night when the Flyers iced the puck with about two minutes to go. Gagne, Richards, Carter, Timonen and Krajicek had all been out there for about forty seconds already and the Flyers had already burned their time-out. Tired players, no Pronger and a faceoff in the offensive zone. In a very similar situation earlier in the series, Peter Laviolette (correctly, in my view) pulled his goalie. Joel Quenneville didn't and although the Hawks had one good chance off that icing, that was it for the last two minutes. I really think that he should have been more aggressive there.
If the Flyers do manage to win this series, I'm sure there will be some who say that this team is the worst Stanley Cup champion of the post-expansion era. In order to make that argument a success, someone would need to argue they played WAY above their heads in the Finals because this Blackhawks team is damn good and the Flyers, as a team, have outperformed them through the first four games. That said, I'm still kind of waiting on the Hawks to crush these guys and, every night, I'm surprised when it doesn't happen.
There was a lot of talk about line matching coming into this game and it seems that Joel Quenneville basically took my advice and all but abandoned the endeavour except with Duncan Keith who he tried to get out against Mike Richards and Co. Other than that, it was Bolland and Madden getting d-zone duty with Sharp and Toews getting o-zone duty. I think it was a better strategy and got better results but fully expect him to go back to hard matching once he gets last change back for Game Five. When he does, he might be better to focus on shutting down Danny Briere and Scott Hartnell rather Mike Richards and crew, at least with his forwards. The Richards group didn't have much success tonight against anyone while Briere's group has been very good in almost every game so far. Despite his strong scoring, I really think Ville Leino is a guy you can take advantage of if you get him defending. One play that stuck out to me was right around 14:10 of the second period after the Flyers had been caught with an icing. Leino got the puck near the top of the circle with a chance to clear and get a change but instead gave the puck away. It didn't lead to anything, but it's the kind of thing a team can really take advantage of.
Sealed by God
3. Kimmo Timonen - Mostly just for the pass on the third Philadelphia goal which was jaw-droppingly good. He was kind of, sort of at fault on the third Hawks' goal and he also took a penalty in the first but Timonen is getting pumped here because of how well he compares to his defense partner. How the hell do you play 85% of your ice time with someone and go +2 on chances while your partner goes -3? How does one guy end with a Corsi of -19 and the other guy -8? Crazy.
2. Duncan Keith - He was a joy to watch in this game, that last puck skipping on him be damned. His closing speed on loose pucks and attacking forwards was simply amazing. One example was at roughly 8:50 of the first period when Jeff Carter was breaking out of the Philadelphia zone. For just a second he looked like he would have a step on Keith, but Keith caught him and angled him safely to the boards. The game was filled with stuff like that. I think his ability to pressure forwards and his awareness of how far he's able to push the play offensively without getting caught is what really drives his numbers. A lesser defender makes that read with less precision and either gets beat to the outside by Carter for a scoring chance or isn't as available in the offensive zone, thus reducing the amount of chances his team gets when he's out there. Just a wonderful player.
1. Michael Leighton - It's not often I'll give top honours to a goalie who allows a goal every seven chances (also known as, being about average) but I really thought that Leighton was fantastic. The only pucks to beat him were either on wonky plays (like the puck falling out of Timonen's equipment) or in ridiculous situations (that five-on-three goal was pretty hard to stop). If it was remotely stoppable, it seemed to me that Leighton stopped it.
Marked by the Beast
3. Niklas Hjalmarsson - He actually wasn't bad overall but those two mistakes in the first period were big ones.
Stripped Raped by Mike Richards on the first goal and then a perfect pass Matt Carle (wrong team buddy!) on the second. Antti Niemi didn't give him a whole lot of help on that first one but your having your defenseman get completely owned isn't exactly something you expect as a goalie.
2. Braydon Coburn - There's a big difference between playing a lot and playing well. Coburn played more than any other Flyer with 27:52 of ice time on the night. He also took a holding penalty that gave Chicago the five-on-three that they scored on. It was the only goal the Hawks scored where Coburn wasn't on the ice, though neither goal was "on him" specifically. Still, the puck was always in the wrong place when Coburn was on the ice, his chance differential of -3 buttressed by Corsi of -19 and a Fenwick of -10. As a team, the Flyers had a Corsi of -4 and Fenwick of +4 when Coburn was on the bench. He didn't play more than half of his even strength ice time against any one player which suggests that he struggled against pretty much everyone.
1. Patrick Kane - So bad. He was on the ice for all four of the Flyers even strength goals and got nothing done offensively all night. At the end of the second period and into the third, Kane was moved off of the line with Jonathan Toews and onto the line with Dave Bolland. Toews was +4 -7 with Kane and +2 -1 without while Bolland was +1 -4 with Kane and +2 -2 without. Not so good Patrick Kane. Not so good.