Some thoughts from the NHL on TSN panel on SportsCentre on Thursday night:
The Philadelphia Flyers have two star players, if you will. One is Mike Richards up front, and the other is Chris Pronger on defence.
Pronger has done a marvellous job throughout these playoffs of creating so much offence and defence on behalf of the Flyers. He has been terrific with his shot from the point, his long stretch passes are a thing of beauty, and he's also been really solid defensively. He's playing composed, smart hockey, and he's playing within himself - and he's not getting too carried away, as we've sometimes known Pronger to do.
So what will the Blackhawks try to do to get around the big blueliner? The same thing Atlanta's Evander Kane did earlier this year - he beat Pronger twice in the same game on the outside with speed, and twice it resulted in goals. What Chicago wants to do is a little bit of what Kane did - use outside speed - and the Blackhawks certainly have a lot of that.
The difference between the Blackhawks and the Montreal Canadiens, who have lots of speed too, is that Montreal isn't as big and physical as Chicago is. The Blackhawks want to lay the body on Chris Pronger, they want to pester him and see if they can get that famous temper of his engaged a little bit. They want to make Pronger's 30 minutes of ice time a really hard 30 minutes, because the Canadiens didn't do that and neither did the Boston Bruins.
Matching the Lines
The Blackhawks have home ice advantage with the first two games at home, and in a perfect world the Blackhawks are going to have Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook up against the Mike Richards line. But they are also likely to come up with David Bolland's line, along with Kris Versteeg and Andrew Ladd (health permitting, otherwise it could be Kopecky or Brouwer). This is a line that did such a good job against the San Jose Sharks, but their job against the Flyers is going to be much more defined against a Richards or Gagne top line, along with Jeff Carter who is back from injury.
This is a line that Chicago knows they need to control, and if you're Peter Laviolette and the Flyers, you have to say 'bring the match-up on', because you're not too worried. You had Richards up against Zdeno Chara, and didn't try to get away from that in the Boston series, so you're not going to run away from a Bolland match-up. And if it happens to be Toews versus Richards, both teams will take that, but it's one that the Flyers would prefer probably more than the Blackhawks.