Bob Ford: Blackhawks want to play much better

Posted: May 31, 2010

CHICAGO - The day after Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals, the players were clearly not happy. At this most important of moments, on this grandest stage, they felt terrible about their opening effort.

They had let one another down, played sloppily and forgotten the sound principles that got them this far. And, one by one, they promised that Game 2 on Monday night would be far different, far better.

Yes, that's how the Chicago Blackhawks felt Sunday.

"We haven't had a game like that for a while," Chicago captain Jonathan Toews said. "As a team, we were not very tight. We were chasing the puck too much, weren't protecting it. We weren't supporting each other. We've got to be a lot better."

The winner's locker room sounded like a loser's locker room, although the Blackhawks had taken a lead of one game to none in the best-of-seven series after Saturday's 6-5 outcome.

From the perspective of the Flyers, things were even worse, of course. In the opener, they held Chicago's top scoring line without a goal, they didn't commit a single penalty that would have unleashed the Blackhawks' excellent power play, and they scored five goals themselves. Put that together and the result is supposed to be a win. Instead, despite all those positive signposts, the Flyers still got lost.

They didn't win because the Blackhawks got too many easy chances and because the Flyers' goalies were just average in a setting that calls for the goaltending to be superb. It was a game of too many turnovers - with soft, rough ice a contributing factor - and too much chasing the puck.

It might not be much consolation to the Flyers, but the Blackhawks pretty much thought they stunk it up themselves.

Toews, who centers the top scoring line, with Patrick Kane and Dustin Byfuglien on his wings, was particularly disappointed. That line scored 22 goals in the 16 previous postseason games, more than 40 percent of the team's total.

Saturday night, the line not only didn't have a goal, or even a point, but finished as a combined minus-9 on plus-minus. It was that kind of night, apparently. The Flyers' top line of Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, and Simon Gagne were also shut out and combined for a minus-7.

"It was a little weird," Chicago defenseman Brent Seabrook said.

Still, it happened, but the Blackhawks say it won't happen again. The Flyers are going to need to match that resolve, because they find themselves in a very difficult position. Not only did Chicago take the series lead, but the Blackhawks don't appear to be in danger of complacency after doing so. In fact, it is just the opposite.

"You have to give the Flyers credit because they have good defensemen, but I think that we, as a line, know it wasn't so much what they did as what we didn't do on the ice," Toews said. "We can't wait any longer to get it going. That was a game where a lot of little things could have been done better to help the team, and we didn't do them. I guarantee you we're going to be better."

Coach Joel Quenneville wasn't quite as harsh in his assessment of Chicago's play, at least publicly. While Peter Laviolette of the Flyers hooked his goalie after allowing five goals, Quenneville stuck with his.

"I didn't think our coverage was very good in front of him. I thought we were scrambling in a lot of situations," Quenneville said. "I thought we were looser with the puck than we have been throughout the playoffs, and our level has to be higher than that."

Well, if the Blackhawks have to raise the level of their game, what does that say about the Flyers? It says they are facing a team that is talented, deep and still motivated. Chicago was the third-highest scoring team in the league this season and finished 24 points ahead of the Flyers in the overall standings.

To beat Chicago, the Flyers have to do all the good things they accomplished on Saturday - the scoring, the discipline in regard to avoiding penalties, the defense on the Toews line - and then do even more.

That is the imperative because the Blackhawks plan to do a lot more on Monday night, and they were the winners.

"I think we can play with a loser's mentality and desperation because we're very unhappy with how we started this series," Toews said. "We can just come out and pretend we're down a game."

So can the Flyers, and they don't have to pretend.


Contact columnist Bob Ford

at 215-854-5842 or bford@phillynews.com. Read his recent work at http://go.philly.com/bobford.

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