Over the week leading to the opening game of the Stanley Cup Finals, we consistently listened in and commented on the goal melting performances of Michael Leighton and Antti Niemi. Now 60 minutes, 11 goals, and one game into the series we step back and really bring much of it to perspective.
Goaltending… Can we just think about the 3rd period?
Offense… Well, can you argue for anything but exceptional when there were 11 goals scored?
With the Hawks escaping with the 6-5 win, it is hard to find any positive in a team perspective. Being one of the worst all around games played this post-season, the Flyer defense deserves more thanks than our offense deserves praise. Don’t get me wrong, the Hawks responded well when faced with a deficit. It just seemed that when either team scored, their defense answered by braking down in coverage or the goaltending was sending one of many rebounds back to the slot.
Fortunately, what can’t be argued is the fact that both teams have depth. As always the Hawks flooded the rink with all four lines. Having depth has been a staple the whole year and the Hawks were able to stay fresh and confident through every period. What can’t be left out is that individual successes obviously varied through the first two periods of play.
Our scoring line did everything but. Toews, Kane, and Byfuglien all went (-3) during the game. We knew coming into the series that the Flyers were going to try and eliminate Buff from camping in the crease. By only allowing 5 shots from the Hawks top producing line many could measure that the Flyers were successful if the other lines hadn’t stepped up. Fortunately for us, that is the Hawks.
In the life of an unsung hero, it was announced that Tomas Kopecky would start in place of an injured Andrew Ladd. Making most of the opportunity, Kopecky netted the game winner in the third period. The second and third lines combined for 5 out of 6 goals, while the penalty kill netted another in the post-season. Plainly said, depth will make or break this series.
When one line is a bit off for the night, another line answers the call. Are we spoiled because of the ability the Hawks have? Probably. The talk will definitely move to the subject of goaltending and pressure defense over the next 24 hours, and deservedly so. With 11 goals in a match-up of two top teams, sloppiness outweighed responsibility.