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Friday, February 23

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Blackhawks Fri Jun 04 2010

Game 4 puts series, momentum up for grabs

The Blackhawks losing Game 3 was a tough loss that gave the Flyers life in this series, but the Hawks also allowed it to happen by getting outshot 16-6 in the 3rd period and overtime, and taking costly penalties that lead to two power play tallies for Philadelphia. Chicago also tended to focus too much on getting the desired line matchups rather than playing the hand they were dealt, which created the odd-man rush for the overtime winner from Claude Giroux.

Of course, all that Flyers win did was set up an extremely pivotal Game 4, airing tonight on Versus at 7 p.m. While it's been noted that 24 of the previous 27 Stanley Cup winners won the fourth game of their series, the bigger issue is one of momentum. The Hawks have yet to lose consecutive postseason games, and a win tonight in Philly gives them a commanding 3-1 series lead and a date with destiny at home on Sunday. However, a 2nd straight subpar effort not only knots things at 2 apiece, but gives the Flyers all the confidence in knowing that they've outplayed the Blackhawks the majority of the series and are getting results, while it sets the Hawks into a bit of self-questioning.

There's a possibility of some changes to the lineup tonight, as Hawks forward Andrew Ladd is a game-time decision after an injury in Game 4 of the Conference Finals. There's also the chance that Joel Quenneville makes some adjustments to help open up the ice and negate the effect Flyers D-man Chris Pronger is having on his top line. Whether that's bringing up Troy Brouwer for Dustin Byfuglien or breaking up Patrick Kane and Jonathon Toews, to force Pronger to match up against one of them remains to be seen, if anything happens at all. Kane picked up a goal and an assist last game in having his best performance of the Stanley Cup, so it's a risky decision to break things up too much if he's just starting to get going.

The real keys to Game 4 for the Hawks are to avoid costly penalties, as the Flyers power play has been dangerous this series, as well as find a way to get their own special teams mobilized more effectively, given their power play is 0-for-the series. Philadelphia also dominated in the face off circle in Game 3, making it all the tougher for Quenneville to make quick changes for favorable matchups. Winning more draws is crucial to the Hawks puck possession and setting up their offense in general. Finally, Chicago has to find a way to play their game for a full 60 minutes. Philadelphia's crowd is going to be loud and boisterous, and the Hawks need to find a better counterattack and balance than they showed in the 2nd half of Game 3.

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