Game 3 pivots on poor line change
PHILADELPHIA -- During Game 3, from my perch in the Wachovia Center press box, I had to marvel at the efficient way that the Chicago Blackhawks were able to change on the fly. I'd look down to write a quick note, and the Hawks would have three new forwards on the ice. On the road, when he doesn't have the last change, coach Joel Quenneville chases the matchups. That's how he coaches. As such, Q's teams get pretty darn good at the quick switch.
That's why I was pretty surprised to see the Hawks screw up a simple line change in overtime that led directly to the Philadelphia Flyers' winning goal.
Simply, you're taking a pretty big gamble when you change after losing a neutral-zone draw. It's just not a smart move when the other team possesses the puck. The Hawks took that risk and lost.
When Claude Giroux beat Dave Bolland cleanly off the draw at the Flyers' blue line (on the opposite side of the ice from the benches), the Hawks should have played it straight. Philly's Chris Pronger made a quick D-to-D pass to Matt Carle, who took a look before moving it to a cutting Giroux. When he released the puck, Carle noticed something different.
"Usually, I expect to get hit there," Carle said. "But he [Kris Versteeg] went behind me, so I knew he was making a change."
Carle was right. Versteeg and Tomas Kopecky went to the bench. That decision left only three Hawks on the ice to defend.
That fact wasn't lost on Carle, who computed the math and jumped into the play. By the time he'd hit the Hawks' blue line, Danny Briere had the puck on the left-wing wall. Carle positioned himself in the middle of the offensive zone on an angle to accept a pass.
In the meantime, Giroux made his third good play in a five- or six-second span when he drove unchecked to the net. Bolland probably should have followed Giroux to the net, but he released him, perhaps expecting D's Brent Seabrook or Duncan Keith to pick him up. Neither did. Then again, they probably figured Bolland would stay with the Flyers pivot.
From the sideboards, Briere slid a pass just under Bolland's stick to Carle. The Philly defenseman wasted no time in moving the puck to a wide-open Giroux, who redirected it past goalie Antti Niemi to cap a thrilling overtime win.
In its most basic form, the Hawks made a mistake and the Flyers were able to capitalize. Philly gets full marks for quickly matriculating the puck up the ice. After winning that draw, the Flyers made five tape-to-tape passes to set up the goal. If they'd miss on one of those, the Hawks probably would have dodged the bullet. The Flyers didn't miss. Now, they get a crack at tying the series on Friday.
Here are some other quick shots from Game 3.
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