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Saturday, October 31

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Blackhawks Wed Jun 02 2010

Game 3 Looms Large as Blackhawks Face Off in Philly

As the Stanley Cup Finals shift to the City of Brotherly Love for tonight's Game 3 (7 p.m., shifting to cable's Versus channel, so find your remote or head out to the local watering hole), the Blackhawks find themselves in the drivers seat of a 2-0 series lead, despite Philadelphia's strong play in a tight 2-1 win in Game 2. The odds are decidedly in favor of the Hawks after that win, as of the 33 teams to win the first two games of a final, 31 of them have lifted the Cup. Of course, the last team to fail in this regard was the Detroit Red Wings last season, so Chicago has a clear case of how quickly things can change if they let up.

With the Wachovia Center rocking, the Hawks find themselves back in hostile environs, an area where they've thrived in winning seven straight on the road. But the Flyers are an equally impressive 7-1 at home this postseason, and having the last change may help clear up some of the matchup frustrations they felt at the United Center, as the Dave Bolland-Kris Versteeg-Tomas Kopecky line neutralized Philly's top line of Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, and Simon Gagne.

Chicago's won the first two games with a combination of grit, scoring touch, solid defense and the play of goaltender Antti Niemi, as well as a little bit of luck. The Hawks got contributions from some long-awaited and unexpected players in Game 2. First it was Marian Hossa finally getting a goal to break his drought, quickly followed 28 seconds later by Ben Eager's unlikely wicked wrister. For the Hawks to be up 2-0 with both Patrick Kane and Jonathon Toews being shut out is both a testament to how well Chris Pronger and the Flyers defense has shut down the Blackhawks aces, and how deep the Hawks bench is. The Flyers can only hope to muzzle the Hawks top line for so long, and with the heavy amount of minutes Pronger and the top 4 D-men have been logging, Chicago will be able to get their chances as the game wears on.

Another issue that figures to simmer and possibly explode tonight is the two team's tempers. Game 2 saw a lot more hard hitting, trash talking and after-whistle scrums as Philadelphia looked to throw a wrench in the Blackhawks' high-speed attack. And while the news stories have focused on the post-game "controversy" (note the quotes) of Pronger's stealing pucks and Eager's response, the in-game physicality figures to only increase in intensity as the Flyers find themselves in front of a rabid home crowd in what is essentially a do or die game for them. The Flyers already have a 7-3 power play advantage through the first two games, with two goals, and the Blackhawks will need to keep their heads about them to not allow Philly multiple chances to take over the game.

A win tonight puts the Flyers in a deep hole. While the Flyers did come back from an 0-3 deficit against Boston in Round 2, no team has ever managed to do so twice. Philadelphia hasn't seen the Blackhawks at their best yet this series, other than possible the third period of Game 1. If Chicago can string together a full 60 minute effort tonight, there's a good chance Lord Stanley will finally be returning to the Windy City.

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