The Flyers were unable to complete the perfect day for local sporting interests, with Roy Halladay hurling a perfect game in Florida, team USA besting Turkey at the Linc, and the Union winning in extra time in Houston. The most important game of the day had the only bad result, with the Flyers losing an end-to-end battle in Chicago, 6-5. And I'd have traded all of the above for a Flyers win in game 1.
We knew the series would be unpredictable, and game 1 certainly was. Two outstanding defenses with good goaltending combined to allow 11 goals in a ping pong match in which the longest lead was the one that iced the game. Neither team led by more than a goal at any time, which is something else considering the high tally by each side.
Also surprising was that most of the top scorers from both sides were held at bay in terms of lighting the lamp. The Flyers were able to mute the powerful top line of the Blackhawks, but the second and particularly the third line were able penetrate the defense and find holes in Michael Leighton. Leights was pulled in the game despite most of the goals not being his fault. Peter Laviolette was probably trying to wake up his team on defense when he made the move to Brian Boucher because Leighton had little chance on the Blackhawks' conversions. The softest goal of the game came against Boucher, and my guess is Leighton will start in game 2. Was it a critical mistake to take Leights out at that point?
A story largely ignored by the broadcast team but prevalent throughout the game was the benching of Ryan Parent. Parent logged all of 41 seconds in this game, on the ice for an early goal that ended his night. Chris Pronger logged more than 32 minutes and managed a plus-2 in the game, and the top two pairings assumed all of the ice time, with Lukas Krajicek subbing in for 7 sporadic minutes. Lavvy clearly doesn't trust his third pairing against the powerful Chicago forwards, and we'll likely see more of the same for the rest of the series, if not a scratching of Parent.
On the bright side, the Flyers were able to expose the Chicago defense and Antti Niemi for five goals, and it wasn't pretty for Niemi. He is certainly beatable in this series, and a slightly better game on defense for the Flyers would have meant a win.
Still, the Blackhawks responded well after being hit hard by the Flyers attack early, and they settled in to take control of a freakish game.
The Flyers scoring was largely generated by their second line, with Scott Hartnell wreaking havoc around the crease, Danny Briere setting up three goals and assisting on another, and Ville Leino continuing to draw attention on his way to a goal and an assist of his own. To say this line had a great game is an understatement.
The Richards line was a disappointment overall, and Braydon Coburn turned over a game-changing play in failing to keep the puck in the zone on the powerplay, then trailing the play meekly while the Blackhawks hung another one on Leighton. The good news is the Flyers now know they can score on Chicago, and Niemi did not hold them at bay. They were able to get in close on him and convert for what should have been plenty of goals to win in a finals game. However, they simply didn't play the disciplined team defense they've displayed in their wins to this point, and their goaltending wasn't a strength despite not being particularly terrible. The Chicago game-winner was pretty painful though...
This wasn't a hang-your-head loss. It was a tough, wild game against a stacked opponent, and it was in their barn to boot. It could have been a whole lot worse, and the Flyers are very much in this series after game 1. You have to think the Richards line will rebound after a subpar showing in this game, but so too will the Toews line. It'll be interesting to see if both sides continue to allow a run-and-gun tempo in game 2 and beyond.
Oddly enough, the Flyers were not whistled for a penalty in this game. They scored once on four powerplay opportunities and were doused with a shorthanded goal. With 6 goals against overall, they were fortunate to not have have spent a minute facing Chicago's powerplay unit.
The Flyers are no strangers to being down a game if not more, so there's no reason to make your way to the area bridges. Do not count them out; we've seen them overcome more, and this wasn't that bad of a loss.
NBC probably had no complaints, huh?
(Photo by Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images)