2010 Stanley Cup Finals, Game 5: Blackhawks are in unfamiliar territory

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Toews2.jpgChicago Blackhawks vs. Philadelphia Flyers

Series tied 1-1

8:00 p.m.
EDT, Sunday, June 6, 2010

Live on NBC

The
Chicago Blackhawks suddenly have their backs against the wall. It’s a
position these Hawks aren’t exactly familiar with.

They faced some early adversity against the Nashville Predators
just as the playoffs were starting, yet since then they have practically
rolled on their way to the Stanley Cup finals. They were able to knock
the Vancouver Canucks in idiotville, and then dispatched the San Jose
Sharks in a four-game sweep; there was no reason not believe they’d
easily take care of the Philadelphia Flyers for the Stanley Cup.

Judging
by the series predictions, that’s exactly what most media pundits
expected.

They Blackhawks have yet to play a complete game against
the Flyers in this series, escaping with two close wins to open the
series before being stunned twice in Philadelphia. If you break down
both teams top to bottom, it’s apparent that the Hawks are more talented
and experienced than the Flyers yet have been outplayed for most of the
past two and a half games.

The Hawks haven’t been dominated, the
Flyers are won two very close games themselves, yet now all the pressure
is squarely on the shoulders of the Chicago Blackhawks. Before Game 4,
the players and the coaches all contended that they were still loose and
confident, yet certainly waited until late in the game to actually back
up their words. By that point, they were down 4-1 midway through the
third period before the light finally came on.

Simon Gagne and
Danny Briere of the Flyers both agree that there really isn’t such thing
as momentum in a series, that each game starts fresh and that it’s
tough to actually carry over momentum from one game to the next.

Yet
after the Hawks lost their first back-to-back games for the first time
since November, this is a team that suddenly has a number of questions
to answer. Will their defense stop the terrible giveaways that have
plagued them the past two days, and get back to resembling the defense
that was so incredibly effective during the regular season?

More
importantly, will the Blackhawks finally get production from the most
important player on the team? Jonathan Toews appeared to be pressing at
times, and has had all sorts of issues getting chances against the top
defensive pairing of Chris Pronger and Matt Carle. Now there’s a
possibility that Toews and Patrick Kane will be split up, adding another
layer of uncertainty to tonight’s game.

Now we’re back in
Chicago, with the Blackhawks in front of the crowd that has been their
spark all postseason long. A loss tonight, and you better believe that
they’ll be headed back into a maelstrom of pressure in Philadelphia on
Wednesday night.