The Flyers head into tonight’s Game 6 at the Wachovia Center with their backs pressed firmly against the wall. This isn’t new territory to the little team that could, as they have battled adversity since utilizing a shoot-out on the final day of the regular season to secure their spot in the post season tournament.
On paper, it is the Blackhawks who have full control after riding some newly configured lines to an impressive Game 5 victory and a 3-2 lead in the series. Though the Hawks have the momentum, they are battling a couple of streaks. They haven’t been able to win a game in the Wachovia Center since 1996 and are the owners of the longest Cup drought in the league after not winning the Cup since 1961.
As the two teams consider what lies ahead in tonight’s epic Game 6, here are 5 things to keep an eye on as you watch the game.
– First of all, Phil Pritchard is in the house. Pritchard is the keeper of the Stanley Cup and his mere presence is usually enough to get the butterflies going – at least in June. Seeing him later in the summer is usually a sign of a celebration. It will be interesting to see how each side reacts to the Holy Grail of Hockey being in the building. Could it be the motivation that the Flyers need to secure an appearance in Game 7? Or will the knowledge of the Cup’s presence be enough to spur the Blackhawks to another performance like they had in Game 5?
– Which goaltender will rise up to steal the show? Michael Leighton has been amazing at home for his team since taking over for Brian Boucher during the Bruins series. He has posted an impressive 6-0 record at the Wachovia Center and needs to have a huge night if his team is to force a Game 7. On the other end, Antti Niemi has been a “bend but not break” guy all playoffs long. Just when you think that the opposition has figured him out, he comes back with a very impressive performance. Like Leighton, he must be strong if Chicago is to win their first Cup since 1961.
– Shining Stars? The Blackhawks were able to get their star players going during Game 5 by altering their line combinations. However, neither team has been able to get consistent contributions throughout from its so called top line players during this series. The team that is able to get that production tonight will go on to win the game.
– Chris Pronger is definitely one to watch tonight, as he will be playing with a chip on his shoulder. Though he claimed that the “Chrissy” photo from the Chicago Tribune was lost on him, it had to sting a bit. Especially in light of his Game 5 performance in which he was a -5 for the first time in his career. Pronger, who might be wearing down a bit from the physical onslaught of the Blackhawks, needs to have a huge game for his team. One need not look any further than his Game 4 performance to see what he needs to do.
– Whose special teams will be… well, special. The Flyers had a decided advantage over the course of the series in the power play production department. The Blackhawks were able to win the battle in Game 5. In a game that is sure to be one of the most physical of the series, it will be the one who can find a way to cash its opportunities, while limiting those of the opposition, who will go on to win the game.
We are roughly three hours from the drop of the puck in Philadelphia, who ya got? I am predicting a big time Flyers performance that forces a “push your chips to the center of the table” winner take all Game 7.
Flyers win it 4-2.