Tonight the quest for the Cup reaches it’s final stage. Representing the East is the Philadelphia Flyers, a team few people ever considered to be a contender. After coming back from a dramatic down 3 games to none to beat the Bruins in 7 games the Flyers have shown they have a team chemistry that makes them tough to handle. When Boucher went down, so did the spirits of a lot of fans, but not of the team. Leighton played brilliant, playing his first ever playoff games. He was dominant against Montreal, earning two shutouts. On the other end of the ice Niemi has been the story in net for the Blackhawks. Replacing Huet as the go to guy in the playoffs he has been solid, rebounding from some soft goals to put on a stellar performance. The Blackhawks dominating offense is filled with youthful energy. That energy led to the 4 game sweep of the San Jose Sharks – a team with a high flying offense of their own. They shut the big guns of the Sharks down and completely dominated them on ever inch of the ice.
The Flyers are going to look to keep their team system running, attempting to control the pace of the game. They’ll have to set the pace in order to slow down the fast transitional play of the Blackhawks. Chicago is going to need to be a little less fancy, and do a bit more dump and chase, using their advantage in speed to win the race to the puck. The Flyers control is going to shut down center ice and make it hard to control the puck in to the zone.
I feel this series has the potential to be a very close one. Neither team can afford to spend much time in the box, as both teams have been dominant on the power play. In the end it’s likely to come down to which unlikely goaltender can keep up their momentum.
At the end of the day I give this series to Chicago – probably in six games.