Flyers must keep clamps on Hawks' top line
Tuesday, 06.01.2010 / 5:40 PM / News
By Brian Compton - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor
|Increased scoring from the Blackhawks' top line could put the team over the top in the Cup Final.|
PHILADELPHIA -- For back-to-back games, the Philadelphia Flyers did a masterful job of shutting down the Chicago Blackhawks' powerful trio of Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Dustin Byfuglien.
Yet Peter Laviolette's group finds itself trailing 2-0 in the Stanley Cup Final, which resumes on Wednesday night with Game 3 at the Wachovia Center (8 p.m. ET, Versus, CBC, RDS).
Chicago's big trio combined for one assist and 10 shots on goal in the first two games at the United Center, both of which were one-goal games. The Flyers dropped the series opener in a wild 6-5 affair before suffering a 2-1 loss in Game 2 on Monday night.
Philadelphia dominated the third period in its latest defeat as it outshot Chicago 15-4, but the Flyers couldn't find the equalizer after Simon Gagne cut a 2-0 deficit in half with 14:40 remaining.
"It's difficult," Laviolette said at the Wachovia Center on Tuesday afternoon. "Obviously, you'd like to keep those guys in check. (Is it) frustrating, irritating to come back 0-2? Yeah. I think everybody in our room believes that you play the game a certain way, you try to do the right things on the ice, you hope that you generate more quality chances than the opposition. When you do it by a margin of 2 to 1, you expect better results than 0-2."
The Flyers did not take the ice on Tuesday, but instead held a team meeting and focused on the things that can help get them over the hump in Game 3. One of those ingredients is to continue to play solid defensively against the likes of Toews, Kane and Byfuglien.
"Obviously, it's a key for us to shut them down," Philadelphia captain Mike Richards said. "But we knew coming into the series that they had a lot of depth and they play well as a team and get contributions from everybody. We had a little bit of a meeting and it kind of reminds us of the Boston series where we played well … we did a lot of good things and find ourselves down 0-2.
"(It's) not the time to get discouraged, not the time to try to do different things on the ice. I think if we keep plugging along the way we have been we have been playing and doing the things that we've been doing, I think the results are going to come."
In their Eastern Conference Semifinal against the Bruins, the Flyers became the first team since 1975 to win a best-of-7 series after falling behind 3-0. But that might be a recipe for disaster against these Blackhawks, who have won a League record-tying seven games in a row on the road this postseason.
But if Chicago is to make it eight straight on Wednesday night, it will likely need more from its top guns. That's what makes it so imperative that Chris Pronger & Co. continue to shut down the Blackhawks' No. 1 unit. Toews entered the Stanley Cup Final with a 13-game points streak and a League-high 26 points in 16 games, and the trio combined for 22 goals through the first three rounds.
"We've got to worry about Game 3," said Pronger, who has to be considered Philadelphia's favorite to win the Conn Smythe Trophy should it rally to win this series. "All the lines need to continue to chip in and we need to shut them down. We've done a good job against their top line, but we need to eliminate those other lines as well. They've gotten a couple of good bounces to go their way on some of their goals, but I don't think we need to really change too much -- just tighten up a few areas."
Should the Flyers do that, the statistic that matters most in June might swing in their favor. While the outcome might be difficult to predict, there's no doubt Laviolette's group will come ready to play and eager to keep Toews, Kane and Byfuglien as frustrated as the Flyers are after coming up empty in Chicago.
"The place where we didn't win was on the scoreboard," Laviolette said. "That's the most important thing this time of the year. Frustrated? Yeah. Irritated? Definitely. Anxious for tomorrow? Can't wait.
"We're gonna compete like hell tomorrow night. I promise you that."
Follow Brian Compton on Twitter: @BComptonNHL
Author: Brian Compton | NHL.com Staff Writer