After wild Game 1, Blackhawks look to tighten defense

Posted: May 31, 2010

CHICAGO - The Blackhawks had an easy time getting into the Flyers' heads and anticipating how the guys in orange and black plan to pull even at one game apiece as they prepared for Monday's Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Finals at the United Center.

There's nothing mysterious about it because both teams realize there are many lessons to be learned from Chicago's clumsy 6-5 victory in Game 1 on Saturday.

The Blackhawks expect the Flyers to tighten up defensively because they need to do the same. They anticipate more physical resistance from them.

They know the Flyers top line of Mike Richards, Simon Gagne, and Jeff Carter probably won't go scoreless throughout the series, just as their top line of Jonathan Toews, Dustin Byfuglien, and Patrick Kane won't go scoreless throughout the series.

They don't expect Flyers goalie Michael Leighton to be as accommodating as he was before he was pulled in favor of Brian Boucher with 4 minutes, 42 seconds to go in the second period.

"We know it's going to be harder," said winger Patrick Sharp, who was rarely used as a Flyer before he was traded to the Blackhawks for Matt Ellison and a third-round draft pick Dec. 5, 2005, a deal the Flyers would just as soon forget.

"We just have to be stronger defensively, be a little more honest with our team concept," Sharp said. "They've got a good team from top to bottom. They can put the puck in the net if we give them the opportunity. Any mistakes we make against them will be right down our throats. They're a physical team. They're very tough to play against."

Sharp scored his eighth goal of the playoffs to tie the game, 3-3, early in the second period. He and Troy Brouwer worked a two-on-one, and Sharp beat Leighton by tucking a high shot into the corner to Leighton's glove side.

Sharp wouldn't bite when asked if the Blackhawks were somehow on to Leighton, who came apart at the seams for the first time in the postseason.

"He's going to stop pucks when he sees them," Sharp said. "Getting bodies and pucks and sticks to the net has been working for us the entire playoffs, and it's no secret that's what we want to continue to do. I think he's a top-notch goaltender, and he's going to bounce back with a huge effort. So whatever way we can put the puck in, we're going to try to do it."

The Blackhawks' second line of Sharp, Brouwer, and Marian Hossa made up for the ineffectiveness of the top line by combining for three goals and three assists. In his third Cup Final with three different teams, Hossa assisted on two goals by Brouwer.

In anticipation that the Flyers will raise their level of play, Brouwer said the Blackhawks view Game 2 as a must win.

"I think it is, and it's just because the way [Game 1] went, back and forth," Brouwer said. "It was kind of like a last goal wins kind of thing. So we are taking that mentality. We need to play a better game."

Brouwer suggested he'd prefer a game that had a little more rhyme and reason to it.

"I hope not," when asked if he anticipates another high-scoring game. "Just because those games are kind of nerve-racking, and you never really know what's going to happen. I think both teams are going to look at the other team's game and tighten things up."


Contact staff writer Ray Parrillo at 215-854-2743 or rparrillo@phillynews.com.

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