Some thoughts from the NHL on TSN Panel on Friday night.
I think the third period of Game 4 was a glimpse of what the Chicago Blackhawks see that they can have, if they play like that on a consistent basis.
For 45 minutes on Friday night, they were completely outclassed by the Philadelphia Flyers. They got out worked, out hustled and lost puck battles all over the ice.
In the third period, they managed to find something, and nowhere was that more evident than in the play of Dustin Byfuglien.
The Hawks forward has basically been a rumour in this series, especially when you consider that he was too much for the Vancouver Canucks and San Jose Sharks to handle. In the third period though, he got physically engaged and started imposing his will by pushing people around, using his size and battling harder with Chris Pronger in front of the net more than he had in the previous games in the series.
Byfuglien also created some offence and got some shots on goal.
That's the type of play that both he and the Hawks can continue to have in Game 5 and beyond, but they have to find a way to reenact it on a regular basis, which is the issue, as the Hawks have been inconsistent so far in the playoffs.
The Edge in Goal?
In Game 4, the Flyers for the most part dominated the Blackhawks, but in the third period, when Chicago got their mojo working, it was Michael Leighton who stood tall, and he did it in a calm and efficient manner.
Leighton made some crucial saves from the middle of the third period on, when the ice seemed slanted in Chicago's favour. If he didn't perform the way he did, there is a good chance that the Blackhawks could have beaten the Flyers, despite being dominated for most of the game.
I think Leighton stood really tall, and people keep having questions about him. He's much better at home than he is on the road, and the numbers bear that out, but I think the goalie that people should be wondering about is Antti Niemi.
I don't think that Niemi was bad in Game 4, I think the team around him was, but his numbers are starting to fall off the face of the earth, and Game 5 on home ice is go time for him.