People can argue home-ice is not a factor in the playoffs all they want; in the Finals, it definitely is. The Flyers failed to get a split in the first two games after dropping two one-goal decisions in a row. Tonight they look to avoid that terrible 3-0 hole and change the landscape of the series. Mike Richards needs to do something at the Wachovia Center tonight, whether it is a big hit or goal. He is the kind of guy that feeds off the crowd, and if he can do something big like he did in Game 5 of the Montreal series, this team will get behind him. I really liked Bartulis’ play the other night. The rookie defenseman did not make any huge mistakes that I can recall, and he actually did a good job of eating up some minutes to give our top four a rest. Braydon Coburn played a hell of a game as well, and if he can continue that style of play our top two pairings will continue to be lights-out. Scott Hartnell deserves a mention too because he was a forechecking machine and in that 3rd period burst he simply would not give up and kept getting the puck to his teammates with his strong board play.
The first two games of the series are over, and the Hawks are flying high right now. They’re a young team and could possibly be getting a little too confident. They have not played in Philadelphia yet. I don’t care how loud they say San Jose is, this team hasn’t played a home Final game in 13 years. The fans are ready, the team will be ready, and the Hawks are going to see what a loud building is. I know they’re 7-1 on the road, but that’s the previous three series. This series is the one I’m worried about, and if the Flyers lose tonight, I will be very worried.
No word yet on whether JVR will still be a healthy scratch in lieu of Carbomb. I think Carbomb especially is the kind of guy that will help you at home with some energy and big hits to get the crowd into it. He’s slowly becoming a fan favorite, and I think his efforts will get his team and the crowd up. His strong play along the boards rivals that of JVR who definitely has more potential and talent, but I don’t think he’s ready for this type of game just yet.
Tonight’s game will either swing the momentum in the Flyers favor, or give Chicago every reason to close this thing out. I firmly believe the Flyers will come out fired up and get behind their crowd to victory. This team has come too far to lose three straight to Chicago. Let’s see some production from the Richards line with Carter and Gagne even strength, that line could be the game-changer for us. They need to build on the good forecheck they established in the third period and carry that over into tonight’s game. Niemi won’t be able to stop shots forever.