Flyers Drop Game 1

...Well I guess that is not how things were drawn up before the game by either team. The Flyers lost game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals 6-5 to go down in the series 1-0. The game was a crazy game to say the least, and each team had multiple leads during the contest.

The Flyers got on the board early and often in Game 1. Unfortunately for them, so did the Blackhawks. The Flyers could never seem to get any momentum going, as once the Flyers would score, it seemed like the Blackhawks wasted no time getting the goal back. The Flyers opened the scoring in the 1st period, as Ville Leino fired a puck towards the net that went off a defenseman and made its way in. The Blackhawks came right back and score 1 minute later. The Blackhawks scored again a few minutes after that, but the Flyers answered with 2 more before the period was over, goals from Scott Hartnell and Danny Briere, to make it a 3-2 Flyers lead at the first intermission.

If you flipped over to Comcast at this point, you could see Roy Halladay complete the 20th perfect game in MLB history. Maybe this would be a good sign for a great Philadelphia sports night.

Unfortunately, the Blackhawks scored 1 minute into the 2nd period on a 2 on 1, and the game was tied at 3. About 7 minutes into the period, Blair Betts scored a goal, but again, the Blackhawks had an answer; the Blackhawks scored 2 minutes after Blair's tally to make it 4-4, and then scored again 5 minutes after that. Michael Leighton was yanked after this goal, a move I did not agree with. For the 2nd straight period, the Flyers scored in the final minute and a half of the period, with Arron Asham scoring in his 2nd straight game to make the score 5-5 going into the 3rd.

Michael Leighton was clearly not playing well, and I understand getting him out of the game in a game he is playing poorly, and tryint to re-fresh for Game 2. However, the Flyers were only down 1 goal at the time Leighton was pulled, and the game was tied going into the 3rd period. I would have rather had Leighton in the net for the 3rd period of a winnable game than Brian Boucher. The only reason to me to pull a goalie is when a goalie is playing poorly, and you have basically conceded that the game would be lost. This would have been a fine situation if the score were 5-1 or 5-2. However, the Flyers were only down 1 goal, and you want to keep the goalie out there who gives you the best shot at winning or getting on a hot streak - and to me that is Leighton. I'm not defending Leighton's play last night, because it was subpar, but I still would have kept him out there.

The 3rd period slowed down and calmed down a little bit, and Antti Niemi, the Blackhawks goalie, who had been struggling all game, along with Leighton, turned his game around and shut down the Flyers. I believe Leighton could have done the same if he was out there. The Blackhawks scored what would be the game winning goal 8 minutes in, on a fairly weak goal where Boucher bit on a shot fake and was out of position for the shot. The Blackhawks then clamped down on defense, and the Flyers never got any great chances towards the end of the game, and only finished the 3rd period with 6 shots in the period. Before the 3rd period, the Flyers were outshooting and outchancing the Blackhawks.

Either way, the Blackhawks really had to win this game more than the Flyers did. The Flyers really need to try to get Game 2 now, and come back home with the series tied 1-1. The Flyers got this crazy game out of the way; they now need to re-focus, relax, and play some better hockey all around. The Flyers seem to be able to play well playing fast, or slow hockey, but I think the Flyers need to try to slow the pace down a little bit. The Flyers need to do a better job in the neutral zone of not allowing the Blackhawks to come through and gain entry to the Flyers zone so easily. If the Flyers can win Game 2, they have still accomplished their goal of splitting in Chicago.

Micahel Leighton needs to step up his game, and show that he can look comfortable in between the pipes, because he never got into a rhythm. Also, the Flyers need to show they can hold onto a lead because blowing 3 leads in the game in unacceptable, even if they are only 1 goal leads, and early in the game. After they take the lead, if they do in Game 2, they need to do a better job on defense of not giving up shots in the slot, and just taking advantage of whatever scoring chances they get, much like Game 4 in Montreal.
Game 2 is not necessarily a must win, but if they do not take it, it makes both Game 3 and Game 4 at home must win games for the Flyers. A win in Game 2 would also allow the Flyers to calm down a little bit, and play their game coming back home for Games 3 and 4. They now just need to re-group, and execute Peter Laviolette's game plan for Game 2.