After a high flying game one that severely deviated from both teams’ style of play, game two of the Stanley Cup playoffs reverted back to the hard nosed brand of hockey everyone was expecting.
Early story lines revolved around the controversial decision by Flyers coach Peter Laviolette to bench prized rookie James van Riemsdyk in favor of the, well, angrier Danny Carcillo. A healthy scratch for the last three games, Carcillo was activated so he could do what he does best, which is run into stuff at high velocities. And boy did ever. Alas, his most notable victim wasn’t a Blackhawk playmaker but teammate Jeff Carter.
As a botched head hunting expedition midway throught the first period intended for Tomas Kopecky went awry, Carcillo plowed full bore into a helpless Carter for a bone crushing gore of the worst variety. Unfortunately for the Flyers, Carcillo decided that if he couldn’t put down a Blackhawk on the ice as he intended, he might as well pull out his bag of wits and engage in some old fashioned verbal bench to bench sparring with Blackhawk Adam Burish. After Burish cracked that the incident was Carcillo’s “First big hit of the year,” NBC cameras caught Carcillo shooting back a garbled stream of brainless f-bombs that had Flyers fans shaking their heads in disgust.
Carcillo redeemed himself by promptly picking up an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, then spent the rest of the game teetering around on shaky skates, firing off-balanced shots and frenetically muffing passes. At least it looks like he was trying really hard.
Unheralded Blackhawks goaltender Antti Niemi shook off a bad game one by stopping 32 of 33 shots while weathering a third period Flyers onslaught that featured 14 shots. Flyers counterpart Michael Leighton also had a solid game after a bad performance in game one got him pulled in favor of Brian Boucher. However, he ultimately disappointed fans after allowing a very soft goal to former Flyers prospect Ben Eager, his first of the playoffs, that allowed the Blackhawks to pull ahead 2-0 with about two minutes left in the second period. They never looked back.
Though the Flyers obviously have displayed a penchant for the miracle comeback, the road to a Philadelphia Stanley Cup championship looks ridiculously rocky. Home teams that sweep the first two games are historically 31-2 in the Stanley Cup finals.
Also of note: Chris Pronger displays the characteristics of a cranky kindergartner at times, doesn’t he?