Game one -- Chicago 6, Philadelphia 5
Now that was not what either coach had in their game plan for Saturday night. Especially Philadelphia which can't afford to get into a run-and-gun, overly offensive hockey game against these talented and opportunistic Chicago Blackhawks. It was entertaining though, wasn't it? And even without President Obama, who many speculated would attend his first NHL game.
Hockey is a momentum game, a sport where positive thinking can overcome an edge in speed and skill -- if that's what your team is facing. Yet despite sloppy play in the defensive zone, these Hawks proved last night they're the faster, stronger and the more skilled team. They chased Philadelphia's starting goaltender -- a psychological blow to a visiting team that had been riding Michael Leighton's stellar work in the past seven games. It will be interesting to see what Philly coach Peter Laviolette does about choosing a goalie for game two -- remember, Philly's backup Brian Boucher was the starter until late in the second round.
I am preparing for game two which I fully believe will be a Hawks win in a more disciplined but less speedy game. The Flyers showed me last night they're stronger physically than I first thought, but they lack finish around the net to keep pace with the Hawks on the scoresheet. That said, watch for the battle to dislodge Scott Hartnell from Antii Niemi's crease. Hartnell created havoc there not unlike what Dustin Byfuglien has done all these playoffs. Dislodging Hartnell and letting Niemi see the play will be key to winning game two.
And so too will be Marian Hossa getting a goal.
The ABC7 team of Mark Giangreco, Ryan Chiaverini and I head to Philadelphia Tuesday morning for games three and four. Hopefully we will arrive up 2-0 in the series, and halfway to Stanley Cup glory. My whole life I have waited to be around a team this good, this likely to succeed. Like hockey fans across the Midwest -- and probably most Canadians -- there is reason to believe this year.
Now, do you see Chief Blackhawk in the black and white image below? This is the hotel shower curtain of a cameraman from TSN, Canada's leading sports network. He swears it isn't Jesus.