After all the build-up and questions surrounding this Stanley Cup Final rematch, the game surprisingly – or not-so-surprisingly, if you listened to the players – had little more to it than any other Sunday afternoon hockey game.
Yesterday, Flyers players agreed – when asked whether the hype affected their play against New Jersey – that it’s “just another game,” as Kimmo Timonen put it.
The only difference was the Flyers’ dramatic shift in playing style.
The Flyers spent the first period in a “prevent” style defense, hanging back instead of attacking when the Blackhawks picked up the puck.
This allowed them to feel out a now-unfamiliar opponent – as many of the Blackhawks’ Cup winners have been shipped elsewhere – and to bide their energy after Saturday’s game.
After this play led to a scoreless first, the Flyers’ line of Jeff Carter, Claude Giroux and Nikolay Zherdev began what would become a productive afternoon as Jeff Carter rammed in a highly-contested rebound in the Hawks’ crease.
With a lead established and momentum on their side, the Flyers unleashed the offense. They pressed, generated chances, and started to open the game much more than in the first.
Their 19 second period shots was only three short of their 22 shot output during the entire game against New Jersey. Unfortunately, standing tall in the Chicago crease, Corey Crawford was turning the majority of them away with ease.
As the third period started, Carter’s line – the stars of the day for the Flyers – went back to work. Giroux’s forecheck turned the puck over to Zherdev, who spun around the Chicago net in a flash and stuffed the puck in before Crawford could get across.
Minutes later, Claude Giroux pulled his patented move of coming down the left wing, pulling up, and throwing a saucer pass across the middle for his teammates to tip home. It worked for James van Riemsdyk the day before, but this time, the puck found Jeff Carter who managed to bat it out of mid-air to stretch the lead to three goals.
Unfortunately, Sergei Bobrovsky’s shutout wouldn’t stand. A loose puck scramble in the crease forced Braydon Coburn to cover the puck – giving Chicago a chance at a penalty shot. Marian Hossa buried his shot, putting his team on the board.
But it was too late – the Flyers were in the driver’s seat and were not about to let Chicago take the wheel.
The Flyers held them off for the rest of the game, and Scott Hartnell polished it off with an empty net tally for a 4-1 final.
After two games in a row where the Flyers were accused – by both analysts and themselves – of failing to play for the full 60 minutes, they turned around by showing a full-game effort from start to finish.
Alongside Zherdev and Carter, Claude Giroux managed to set career highs with 4 assists, 4 points, and a plus-minus rating of +4 – solidifying his All-Star status on the national stage.