While the Flyers put consistent pressure on the Hawks on Monday night, they couldn’t bury that puck. Any question the Flyers had, the Hawks provided an answer. While the first game replicated Wayne Gretzky’s 3D Hockey on Nintendo 64 back in the day, the world would meet the real teams of the Stanley Cup Finals in Game 2. Now with the Hawks up 2-0 after playing two drastically different styles, the Hawk “sweepers” are mobbing message boards.
“Hawks sweep here we come!” and “This is over!” have come in from many Hawk fans taking the believing the notion that the Hawks will finish this road winning streak started 7 games ago in Nashville. Yes, the Hawks have been virtually unstoppable on the road and will push to be the same tonight. There is no doubt in my mind Joel Quenneville and Jonathan Toews will have the team ready, but it is the oft mentioned who must remain stable… Antti Niemi.
The first two games were only a hint to what the Flyers will do in game three at the Wachovia Center. The physicality and emotion will be at a high for this team and those disregarding them are mistaken. They have lost the first two games by a goal apiece and if not for Niemi, not Toews or any other positional player out there, this series would be either tied or Philly up 2-0. One finally needs credit where credit is due.
Monday night, Niemi put on a flat out spectacle. The man can be an absolute brick wall. The demeanor and heart Antti leads with, it just simply inspires his teammates and fans alike. Even after giving up five goals in Game 1 and facing a team that made a goalie change, Q had zero inclination to yank him. Confidence is one thing Q has in his young goalie, he knows that when the game strikes zero hour Niemi will keep the game in position to be won.
In order to close this series by getting two more wins, they will need Niemi to be the fortress he was Monday night. I doubt we will see a run-and-gun performance as we did Saturday. What it will be is physical and defensive once again. Yes, the Hawks are in control and now go back on the road. Niemi has been the lecturing professor thus far, and with the Flyers on their heels they can only hope that he is tardy.