Flyers, Blackhawks to try defence in Game 2
After crossing "win Game 1" off their Stanley Cup final to-do list, the Chicago Blackhawks took little time to revel in the victory before Game 2 on Monday night.
"We're really unsatisfied with the way we've started this series," Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews said a day after his team's 6-5 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers.
"Regardless of us being up 1-0, to us that means nothing. We can be much more desperate."
The Flyers, on the other-hand, took the loss as a victory of sorts.
Considered the underdog heading into the series, a role they've played throughout the Stanley Cup playoffs, Philadelphia managed to score five goals on the road, while shutting down the Blackhawks' top line of Toews, Patrick Kane and Dustin Byfuglien.
"We proved we belonged with them," said Flyers forward Danny Briere.
Flyers defenceman Chris Pronger looked at Saturday's match as a learning experience:
"We played a decent game but not our game [Saturday], and I think we understand that. The mistakes that were made can be easily corrected, and that's what we're looking at.
"I don't think anybody is hitting the panic button or rushing to do anything rash here."
In defence of goalies
The Blackhawks and Flyers meet for Game 2 in Chicago on Monday night (CBC, CBCSports.ca 8 p.m. ET), and while neither team is rushing to do anything rash both are at least hoping to play a little defence.
"We've got to tighten up," said Flyers defenceman Matt Carle. "We can't run-and-gun with these guys. That doesn't bode well for us."
Michael Leighton, 29, will be back in net for the Flyers, after allowing five goals on 20 shots and being pulled for Brian Boucher in Game 1.
Coach Peter Laviolette appears to have good reason to keep his faith in the journeyman goaltender. He was 3-0-1 after being pulled during the regular season, and one of his three shutouts in the Eastern Conference final against Montreal came after a 5-1 loss.
Leighton became an unexpected pillar for the Flyers' playoff run after starting goaltender Boucher went down with a knee injury in Game 5 against the Boston Bruins in Round 2.
"I didn't let any really bad goals in," said Leighton, after reviewing Game 1 with goalie coach Jeff Reese. "That's the way I look at it. I didn't make some big saves, that's pretty much what it came down to. Every good scoring chance they had, they scored."
Leighton's teammates stood by him after Saturday's loss, shouldering the blame for forgetting to pack their defensive instincts on the trip to Chicago.
"There's players that should take the blame for [Saturday] night, it's certainly not our goaltending," said Briere. "The chances we gave, the shots we gave in dangerous areas, we haven't done that too many times in the playoffs."
At the other end of the ice, Blackhawks' netminder Antti Niemi is also looking to shake off a questionable Game 1 performance.
Niemi allowed five goals on 26 shots after two periods. But the 26-year-old rookie blanked the Flyers in the third period, helping them secure the 6-5 win.
Blackhawks' coach Joel Quenneville diverted criticism of Niemi, blaming his team's scrambling defensive coverage for the Flyers' scoring frenzy.
"But I liked how [Niemi] continued to persevere and was rock solid in the third period," said Quenneville. " It's the way he goes about his business."
Scoreless top lines
The top line from both teams will look to get on the score sheet for the first time in the Stanley Cup final on Monday night. Despite a total of 11 goals in Game 1, neither team's go-to line registered a point.
In fact, Mike Richards, Simone Gagne, and Jeff Carter were a combined minus-7 for the Flyers, while the Blackhawks' Toews, Kane, and Byfuglien were minus-9.
"There's no time to waste this time of year," Toews said of his line's dismal showing. "This is the big show and you want to play your best hockey every shift."
For his part, Toews was 18-6 in faceoffs in the first game, winning five of six draws against the Flyers' Briere.
Flyers' coach Laviolette said his team's 38 per cent winning percentage in the faceoff circle just wasn't good enough.
"Faceoffs, a lot of times, not only do they give you possession of the puck, that's the obvious; but they also kind of give you the state of the team and where they're at," he said. "Hockey is a very competitive game, and it's about one-on-one battles and winning those one-on-one battles. Most originate in the faceoff circle. To me, we have to compete a little bit better."
Lady Byng Flyers?
The Flyers did not have a single penalty in Game 1, playing an unusually gentle brand of hockey that took Blackhawks' agitator David Bolland by surprise.
"I thought it was going to be more nasty than that," he said. "It was pretty calm. I don't know what happened."
However, with Game 1 behind them, Pronger predicts tougher heads will prevail.
"I think there's no question it's good to get a game under your belt," he said. "[Now guys] understand the circus we're in, and obviously the stakes of the games and the atmosphere of the crowd and all the rest of that. The first game is behind us."
With files from The Canadian Press