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Power play, Pronger holding Hawks back

6/3/2010

PHILADELPHIA -- There are two things holding the Chicago Blackhawks back from a true 60-minute (or more) performance: a lackluster power play and Chris Pronger.

Game 3 doesn’t need more analysis than that.

The Philadelphia Flyers' power play did what the Hawks could not: Score. Twice, for good measure. And this time the chances were even. Three aside. As for Pronger, he’s getting the best of Dustin Byfuglien and anyone else he goes up against.

On Wednesday, he was on the ice for three of the four Philadelphia goals and none of the Blackhawks' tallies. He was plus-2 with an assist and a game-high 32:07 on ice. Yeah, I’d say it was a pretty good night for No. 20.

“Pronger was excellent,” Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said.

Meanwhile, some might believe he’s getting away with murder on Byfuglien in the slot. One sequence had Pronger knocking him down, and when Byfgulien got back up and turned to Pronger, he cracked his stick in half. To the penalty box he went, and on the ensuing power play, Scott Hartnell scored the second Flyers goal, though it would take a review by the referees a few minutes later to make the right call.

Just think if the refs called the initial knockdown instead of the accidental slash. We might have a different outcome.

Hawks coach Joel Quenneville is trying to put a positive spin on the slot battle that has lived up to its hype.

“I think Buff is pretty composed,” Quenneville said. “I think Buff has been a factor and something they have to be concerned about. I just think we have to play hard against Pronger, and Buff knows where he gets rewarded, by going to the net. But he'll continue to battle and persevere and do what he has to do.”

Pronger was called for a high sticking infraction but that didn’t stop him from dominating as he has most of the series so far.

Power plays are the great equalizer in hockey. The Hawks might be deeper -- it’s the main reason they are up 2-1 in the series -- but the Flyers have four power-play goals to the Hawks’ zero in the first three games. That’s how you stay close and eventually win one.

“We could do a lot things differently,” Duncan Keith said about the power play. “We just need to shoot [and] keep it simple.”

There is no magic answer when it comes to man-advantage struggles. Keeping a five-on-five mentality on the power play is usually heard at times like these and the Hawks could use that kind of advice. It’s a small sample size but 0-6 with the man-advantage, for a team with as much skill as Chicago, is not going to cut it.

So far we’ve seen two games where Patrick Sharp’s line has contributed, and now Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane finally got on the board. In between Dave Bolland and his linemates have done some damage as well.

But we haven’t seen the waves of offense from all four lines the Hawks are capable of showcasing. Again, Pronger and Flyers might have a thing to say about that. But until we do -- or the Hawks start scoring on the power play -- then tight games will be the norm in this series which means a distinct possibility of returning home all knotted 2-2.