COACHING CHANGES TRANSACTIONS POWER POLL DEPTH CHARTS CURRENT ODDS
By Dan Di Sciullo
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - While walking around Philadelphia's Wachovia Center in the hours leading up to Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Finals, it became clear to me that the Flyers organization and their fans are not big on subtlety.
In fact, the Flyers' default position skews to the dramatic side of things. Fans come to the arena clad in orange T-shirts that bear slogans like "Defy All Odds", "Together We Fight" and "We Bleed Orange".
Prior to Game 3, when the Flyers trailed the series 2-0, the club posted a picture of captain Mike Richards on the big screen accompanied with the famous Winston Churchill quote, "We are still masters of our fate. We are still captain of our souls."
In a sense, the Flyers market themselves as a kind of NHL version of the Oakland Raiders and, perhaps, the warrior imagery and flair for the dramatic is what makes the Wachovia Center such a tough place to play.
Now, the Flyers will have to use the art of psychodrama to keep their Cinderella season alive for one more game. Philadelphia and Chicago will meet Wednesday night for another showdown at the Wachovia Center.
After posting a dominating 7-4 win in Sunday's Game 5, the Blackhawks will take a 3-2 series lead into that next battle, and can claim their first Stanley Cup title since 1961 with the win.
But that figures to be easier said than done for the Blackhawks, after all, this series has been owned by the home teams. Chicago proved that once again on Sunday as it improved to 3-0 on home ice in this set. The Flyers, of course, are 2-0 on Broad Street.
Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette is confident that his club can continue the trend of home dominance on Wednesday night.
"We've got to get back as a team and make sure we're ready to play our brand of hockey, our style of hockey in our building with our fans," said Laviolette. "We have to make sure we're ready to win one hockey game."
Of course, there isn't much sense in looking ahead to Game 7 yet, but if the Flyers are able to take the sixth meeting, it certainly would be tough for Philly to pull off a road win should there be a decisive contest in Chicago.
Then again, the Flyers have been counted out so many times this season it would be unwise to sound the death knell at this stage. A team that has already come back from down 3-0 in a series to win in this postseason is not going to be scared off by a mere 3-2 deficit.
"I think that when you get to this point there's a tremendous amount of confidence in your team to win hockey games," added Laviolette. "They get it and they understand it. If any team gets it, this team gets it, because we've been here so many times."
BUFF TURNS THE TABLES ON PRONGER
The most intriguing matchup of this series has been a battle between heavyweights -- Chris Pronger of the Flyers and Dustin Byfuglien of the Blackhawks.
Pronger, a towering defenseman, and Byfuglien, the game's bulkiest player, have been hammering away at each other since the Cup Finals began over a week ago. The Flyers blueliner dominated the first four games, limiting Byfuglien to just one assist in Games 1-4.
However, Chicago's mammoth winger exploded for four points in Game 5 on Sunday night, posting two goals and two assists to push his club within one game of a Stanley Cup title.
"I think last night was the biggest influence in the game he's had throughout the playoffs," Chicago head coach Joel Quenneville said of Byfuglien's Game 5 effort. "He was a big factor."
Pronger, on the other hand, had his worst game of the playoffs Sunday, as he was on the ice for six of Chicago's seven goals and finished a minus-five for the night. He was a plus-seven through the first four games of the series.
Laviolette defended his No. 1 blueliner after Game 5 and was obviously not keen to make a scapegoat of Pronger.
"Our team needs to be better, the whole group, I believe, needs to be better," said Laviolette. "When we're successful, we do it as team. When we lose and we have a night that's tougher, we do it as a team. The minus 5's, are they all his fault? No."
WILL IT BE THE LEIGHT SHOW IN GAME 6?
There is some speculation as to who will be between the pipes for the Flyers in Game 6. Michael Leighton was torched for three goals in the first period and was replaced by Brian Boucher before the start of the second.
It should come as no surprise that Laviolette has been mum on who will be his starter in Wednesday's game.
"I don't comment on lineups," was all Laviolette had to say on Monday when asked if he was sticking with Leighton.
It's hard to believe he will make the switch to Boucher. Leighton was also pulled after giving up five goals in Game 1 of this series and rebounded nicely in the next game, stopping 24-of-26 shots in what turned out to be a 2-1 loss for the Flyers.