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Cullen: New-look Blackhawks Push Flyers to the Brink

Scott Cullen
6/7/2010 9:00:19 AM
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Going into Game Five of the Stanley Cup Final at the United Centre, the Chicago Blackhawks were in disarray, having lost both games in Philadelphia and looking very little like the team that had won the first two games of the series.

Part of Chicago's strategy, upon returning home, was to shake-up their lines, a move that worked so well, it's a wonder they didn't try it any sooner.

Patrick Kane joined Patrick Sharp and Andrew Ladd and they combined for five points, even though Kane played only 15:18, a total he had surpassed in 80 of 82 games this season and in every game since mid-December.  Sometimes less is more.

Dustin Byfuglien moved to a spot with Kris Versteeg and Dave Bolland and turned in a monster game with two goals, two assists and a plus-3.  Versteeg and Bolland added five points and a plus-6 between them as well, so they were Chicago's most effective line in the 7-4 victory.

Meanwhile, Jonathan Toews had a pair of new wingers -- Marian Hossa and Tomas Kopecky -- and while they struggled to produce as a trio, combining for one assist and a minus-6 rating, Toews did appear to have more jump in his step.

The reason Chicago needed to change up their first line, in particular, was because they were getting shut down by Philadelphia defenceman Chris Pronger.  The juggling of lines allowed Byfuglien to spend more of his time up against Braydon Coburn and when Byfuglien did end up out there against Pronger, his line took advantage of one of Pronger's worst nights as a pro.

Pronger was a career-worst minus-5 and in the penalty box for Chicago's fifth goal, by Byfuglien.  By no means were Philadelphia's defensive breakdowns all Pronger's fault, but he logged more than 28 minutes of ice time and the goaltending provided by Michael Leighton and Brian Boucher was suspect, as they allowed six goals on 27 shots.

It was a tough night for another of the Flyers' Conn Smythe candidates, as Claude Giroux took a minus-4 and didn't register a shot on goal and Mike Richards was held off the scoresheet and was minus-2, making him minus-6 for the series.

Oskars Bartulis played 23 seconds through the first two periods and ended up on the ice for 1:58 in total.  The trust isn't quite there for the Flyers to use their sixth defenceman on a regular basis.  In contrast, Chicago's Nick Boynton played the fewest minutes for a Blackhawks defenceman and he was on the ice for 8:36.

The Flyers did get some productive individual performances in the loss; Kimmo Timonen had two points and was plus-2; Ville Leino had three points and was plus-2 and Daniel Briere added a couple of assists, giving him 27 points for the playoffs, pulling him within one point of Toews for the playoff scoring lead.

Back to Philadelphia for Game Six, the Flyers have to play like they did in Games Three and Four at home and it wouldn't hurt them any if the Blackhawks left their outstanding Game Five performance in Chicago, to be re-addressed in Game Seven.

Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@ctv.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen.




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