The mood along Madison Street and throughout Blackhawk Nation is markedly different than it was just one week ago. Last week, in Chicago fans’ minds, the Hawks had already won the Stanley Cup. The next four games were a mere formality. Now, however, that opinion has turned from supreme confidence to overwhelming worry.
The worry that Blackhawks fans are feeling today is not without reason. After winning the first two games of the Stanley Cup Finals, the Blackhawks have played two very poor games of hockey. In Games 3 and 4, the Hawks looked slow and tired. Check that, they looked more lethargic than an 87 year old with arthritis before their afternoon nap.
By Peter Christian
Most notably, the defensemen have been anti-clutch. The previously solid group of Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Brent Sopel and Niklas Hjalmarsson were downright atrocious in Game 4 (I exclude Brian Campbell from that group because I thought he played his best game since returning from injury). Hjalmarsson was personally responsible for two of the goals and Duncan Keith had trouble keeping control of the puck all game, which eventually snakebit the Blackhawks when Keith mishandled a puck at the point and led to the empty net goal to seal the game for the Flyers.
It should be noted that as bad as the Blackhawks played, the Flyers were very good as well. They earned some of those goals by simply outhustling the Blackhawks. They were outstanding on the forecheck to start the game and kept pressure on the struggling Blackhawks blueliners to maintain their control of the game and ensure the series left Philly tied at 2.
Starting with Game 5 in the United Center, the Stanley Cup Finals will have a much different feel than the first four games did. The Blackhawks are losing some of their luster right before our eyes. The Flyers suddenly appear to have answered the call to be a worthy competitor versus the 1A team of the Western Conference and now have the ability to overtake the Blackhawks as the dominating team of these Finals.
Should the Flyers put the screws to the Hawks in Game 5 and jump out to an early lead, the tension inside the United Center will be thicker than the “Ole 96er” from “The Great Outdoors.” The knife to cut that tension will be the fans. If they are sharp and fight through that pressure, the Hawks will rebound. If they tighten up and go dull, Philly will take a 3-2 lead back to the Wachovia Center for Game 6.
It’s been 49 years since the Blackhawks have won the Stanley Cup. They now face a best of 3 series to snap the longest Cup-less streak among the Original 6 teams, and then transfer the dubious title to the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Leave a Reply