2010 Stanley Cup Finals, Game 4: Hawks talk about 3rd period struggles

Sopel.jpgThe Chicago Blackhawks may be leading this series 2-1, with a good
chance to head back to Chicago with a chance to clinch the Stanley Cup,
but the Philadelphia Flyers have the momentum. After walking away from a
sloppy Game 1 confident that they can keep up with the talented and
deep Blackhawks, the Flyers have used a surprisingly strong surge in the
latter half of the past two games to climb right back in this series.

The
Flyers grossly outplayed and outshot the Hawks in the third of Game 2,
but thanks to a timely and surprisingly deft goal by Ben Eager walked
away the losers in a close game. They talked about building on that
momentum and getting a good start here in Philadelphia, and put together
arguably their best overall effort in Game 3.

Still, their best
effort of the series still saw the Flyers playing in a tight game that
could have gone either way. Once again the Flyers grossly outplayed the
Hawks in the third period, outshooting their opponent 15-4 and easily
seizing control of the game.

It’s a disturbing trend for the
Blackhawks, who until this series had used their great depth to put
together a complete, 60-minute effort in nearly every game of the
postseason. There were some hiccups here and there, but this has been
the first time the Hawks have struggled this much in consecutive games.

“Playing
with the lead, sometimes you tend to sit back a bit which we don’t want
to do,” Patrick Kane said when asked about his team’s struggles in the
third period.

“I think they’ve been building off their momentum
in the third periods which is probably why they had more chances in
overtime and ended up winning the game. Sometimes when you have the lead
you tend to sit back a bit.”

The Hawks have certainly been
sitting back, especially when you consider that they took the lead early
in the third last game and were trying to protect a two-goal lead in
Game 2. Yet it hasn’t just been a matter of the Hawks sitting back; some
of the credit has to go to the Flyers as well.

“They have a good
team concept and they seem to stick to it,” said Patrick Sharp. “They
don’t change if their up a goal or down a goal, and that makes it tough
to play against.”

One thing that has been evident is that the
Flyers have used their hard forecheck all game long to seemingly beat
back the counterattack of the Blackhawks. Brent Sopel feels that
forecheck harder than most, and he agrees that the Flyers are a cut
above the rest.

“They’re tenacious, they don’t give up,” said
Sopel. “They’re resilient, the whole team
is that way. They definitely come a lot harder than other teams [on the
forecheck]. Obviously everyone uses their forecheck differently, but
they’ve got speed and they try to use that to their advantage.”

Troy
Brouwer agreed, that there is one thing that the Flyers use better than
any other team they’ve faced in the playoffs. What is that one part of
the game they do so well?

“Pressure,” Brouwer said. “They have
a lot of desire on that team and a lot of will to win. When it comes
down to crunch time and you have to press for a goal or press for the
lead, they’ve done really well in that aspect.”

The Blackhawks
were almost gushing about the way the Flyers play, especially in the
third period. Yet when asked what they’ll be doing differently moving
forward to try and have a better effort in the third, the Blackhawks
were adamant they don’t need to change anything, really.

“We
don’t change our game because it’s the third period,” Brouwer said. “We
got a lead in the third period last game and the very next shift they
got a nice bounce right on the tape for an open net goal. What can you
do, really? It’s a tough break, and we don’t change the way we play
because of it.”

Brent Sopel was even more direct. He didn’t want
to hear any questions about the third period, stating several times that
the past is the past and they can’t change it. All the Blackhawks can
do is focus on what is ahead of them.

“We’re not worried about
the third period, we’re just worried about the first period here in
Game 4.”

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    Khudobin delivered an encouraging performance for the Bruins

    Boston Bruins right wing David Pastrnak (88) and left wing Brad Marchand (63) celebrate with goalie Anton Khudobin after he blocked a shot by Carolina Hurricanes left wing Jeff Skinner to win the game, 2-1, in a shootout during an NHL hockey game, Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016, in Boston. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
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    Anton Khudobin gave the Boston Bruins a much-needed win last night.

    He also gave Tuukka Rask a much-welcomed night off.

    The Bruins beat the Hurricanes, 2-1, in a shootout at TD Garden. Khudobin made 29 saves, plus two more in the shootout, including the game-decider on Jeff Skinner.

    It was an encouraging performance by Khudobin, who returned to the Bruins net after a conditioning stint in the AHL. It was the first time this season that a Boston goalie other than Rask was credited with a win.

    “Very good,” head coach Claude Julien said of Khudobin’s play. “He deserves a lot of accolades tonight, for the way he played, the way he responded after being out such a long time. I think the fact that he went to Providence and played some games there really helped him get back on track. Tonight, he showed that he was ready to play.”

    Julien added, “No doubt, there’s a lot of confidence that grew in that dressing room by watching his play and knowing that we’ve got two goaltenders that can play extremely well for us.”

    The Bruins did not feel they had good enough backup goaltending the past two seasons, both of which ended outside the playoff picture. And so they bid adieu to Niklas Svedberg and Jonas Gustavsson, bringing Khudobin back into the fold on a two-year contract.

    Granted, one win isn’t enough to conclude that Khudobin will be fine. He’s now 1-3-0 with a .902 save percentage, and those numbers could still be much better.

    But he’ll be back in there soon enough. The Bruins have 15 more games in December, and Rask isn’t going to play them all.

    Blues ‘need more’ from Lehtera, who could be healthy scratched

    Jori Lehtera
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    Jori Lehtera received one of his lowest ice times of the season in Thursday’s win over Tampa Bay — just 11:21 — and was demoted to the fourth line at Friday’s practice.

    If that didn’t send a message, Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock delivered it shortly thereafter.

    “We’re going to need more from him,” Hitchcock said, per NHL.com’s Lou Korac. “The position we have him in, we need more from that position.”

    Lehtera was signed to a three-year, $14.1 million extension after a solid ’14-15 campaign, in which he scored 14 goals and 44 points in 75 games. His offensive production sagged a bit last year (nine goals, 34 points in 79 games) and he’s gone through some difficult stretches this year.

    The 28-year-old Finn had just three points through his first 15 games of the year, but did look as though he’d turned the corner recently. Prior to the Bolts game he had four points in four contests, including his first multi-goal effort of the season (potting a pair in a 4-2 win over Boston).

    Clearly, though, Hitchcock thinks there’s more to give.

    Per the Post-Dispatch, Hitch said he’s unsure if Lehtera will play on Saturday, when the Blues host the Jets. Nail Yakupov and Ty Rattie both sat out against Tampa Bay, and either one could draw into the lineup.

    The Lehtera development comes with the Blues playing some of their best hockey of the year. They’ve won seven of their last eight, and are just four points back of Chicago for top spot in the Western Conference.

    Pre-game reading: Some advice for Nolan Patrick

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    — Up top, Mike Milbury and Keith Jones discuss the Penguins’ two-goalie situation, which GM Jim Rutherford recently admitted was not working as well as he’d hoped.

    Nolan Patrick, the likely first overall pick in the 2017 NHL draft, is currently out with an injury. Tyler Benson, a top draft prospect last year who battled injuries, has some advice for Patrick: “I don’t think he should be worrying about the draft. People know what kind of player he can be. He’s played two years in this league already and he’s dominated. I think he should worry about making sure he’s 100 per cent when he comes back.” Benson was eventually selected 32nd overall by the Oilers. (The Province)

    — A couple of weeks ago, Senators owner Eugene Melnyk got mad at the Ottawa Citizen newspaper after an editorial called on him to push for an outdoor game at TD Place. Yada, yada, yada, Melynk is now pushing for an outdoor game at TD Place. (Ottawa Sun)

    Hampus Lindholm has been good defensively in his return to the Anaheim Ducks, but with only two assists in his first 11 games, you have to think he’ll want to start contributing more to the offense soon. Lindholm is now the highest-paid defenseman on his team, with a cap hit just over $5 million. And if the Ducks have to trade Cam Fowler at any point, they’ll need Lindholm’s offense even more. That’s just the pressure that comes with a big contract. We’ll see how he fares. (OC Register)

    — In 2015-16, no Canadian teams made the NHL playoffs for the first time since 1969-70. So, how are things looking this season? Long story short, quite a bit better. Three of the seven Canadian teams are currently in a playoff spot, and the other four aren’t out of it yet. (TSN)

    — What a surprise, the Winnipeg Jets hurt themselves with too many penalties last night against Edmonton. “Those early penalties and how much time we spent in the box early on killed us,” said Bryan Little. “Our PK couldn’t get it done.” This has been a problem for way too long now. Over the last three seasons combined, the Jets have gone shorthanded 686 times, the most in the NHL. Clearly, they aren’t good enough to play with such poor discipline, so perhaps they should figure it out. (Winnipeg Sun)

    Enjoy the games!

    Goalie nods: It’s Chad Johnson’s net in Calgary

    CALGARY, AB - OCTOBER 18: Chad Johnson #31 of the Calgary Flames in action against the Buffalo Sabres during an NHL game at Scotiabank Saddledome on October 18, 2016 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images)
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    Chad Johnson, the Flames’ goalie of record in eight of their last 10 games, will once again be in goal when Calgary hosts Minnesota on Friday night.

    Johnson, as we’ve written about on numerous occasions, was terrific for the Flames in November, going 7-3-0 with a 1.80 GAA and .939 save percentage. He essentially wrestled the No. 1 gig away from Brian Elliott, and closed out the month in style by posting a 39-save shutout against Toronto on Wednesday.

    As a result, Calgary has clawed back from a disappointing start to draw within one point of Nashville for the final wild card spot in the Western Conference (granted, the Flames have played four more games than the Preds).

    For the Wild, Devan Dubnyk‘s in goal.

    Elsewhere…

    — Just one other game this evening, as Montreal takes on the Sharks in San Jose. It promises to be a quality matchup as both teams are rolling with their No. 1s: Carey Price for the Habs, Martin Jones for the Sharks.