Home is where the heart is, as the old saying goes. It's also where the wins are in the 2010 Stanley Cup Finals with all five contests to date going to the squad skating on its home ice. The latest came Sunday when the Blackhawks grabbed a 3-2 lead in the series with a 7-4 triumph over the Flyers. Philadelphia's Wachovia Center will now be the site for Game 6 with the Blackhawks seeking their first championship in 49 years.
Have the Chicago Blackhawks found the winning formula for the Stanley Cup? They’re one game away from their first championship in 49 years after some astute line-shuffling led to Sunday’s 7-4 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers.
Philadelphia was down 2-0 in this series before going home and picking up a pair of wins behind some strong goaltending by Michael Leighton. But Leighton was ambushed when the series returned to the United Center for Game 5. Chicago put 13 shots on net in the first period and scored three times, Leighton was pulled for Brian Boucher, and the two teams traded goals the rest of the way.
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This was the fourth payday for the 'over' in the five games thus far. The NHL betting lines were already tweaked once in this series, bumping the total up from 5½ to six goals after Game 1 and immediately back down to 5½ after Game 2. Is it time for another correction?
None of the three goalies involved in this series has been stellar – Antti Niemi allowed four goals on 27 shots in Game 5, all at even-strength – but let’s give credit to the Hawks offense and Hawks coach Joel Quenneville for getting his best players back on track.
Chicago got almost nothing out of its top line during the first four games. Jonathan Toews (25 goals, 43 assists during the regular season) had just one assist going into Sunday’s matchup. Patrick Kane (30 goals, 58 assists) had a goal and two assists, all in the two losses at the Wachovia Center. And Dustin Byfuglien had only the one assist while being regularly abused by Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger. Quenneville was expected to juggle his lines for Game 5, but which combinations would he use?
As it turned out, each of those three players ended up on a different line to start the game. Toews was put alongside Marian Hossa and Tomas Kopecky, Kane drew the assignment with Andrew Ladd and Patrick Sharp, and Byfuglien skated with Kris Versteeg and Dave Bolland. That third line was the charm: Byfuglien had two goals and two assists as Pronger focused his attention on the Toews line.
The onus now shifts to the Flyers as they head home for Game 6 on Wednesday night (8:00 p.m., NBC). The home team has prevailed in every single game thus far, and Leighton responded well after he was pulled from Game 1, so Philly fans have reason to hope. Game 7 (if necessary) would be a different story going back to the United Center, but first things first.
Right now it’s up to Philadelphia coach Peter Laviolette to find a way to jump-start Jeff Carter (33 goals, 28 assists), who was held off the scoresheet in Game 5 and may be having trouble skating after recently missing over a month of action with a broken foot. Carter has one goal and two assists in this series at minus-5.
Then there’s the matter of whether to start Leighton or Boucher in Game 6. However, it was mostly Pronger who appeared out of sorts on Sunday night. He was on the ice for all five of Chicago’s even-strength goals and sitting in the penalty box for Byfuglien’s power-play goal in the second period. Pronger took the penalty after Kane made him look like a 6-foot-6 cardboard cutout, skating around Pronger and drawing a hooking call.
Pronger’s a character player, and the Flyers were drawing high praise going into Game 5 for their ability to come back and tie this series, on top of their incredible run against the Boston Bruins after going down 3-0 in the Eastern Conference semifinals. Even with Sunday’s loss, Philadelphia is 9-1 in these playoffs when the series is at Game 4 or later. Philly is also 9-1 at the Wachovia Center. Make sure to shop around for your betting odds on this matchup, comparing the chalk between the Flyers and the OVER to see where the value lies for Game 6.