Five things to watch for in Game 3

June, 2, 2010

PHILADELPHIA -- Here are our five things to watch for in tonight's Game 3:

1. The Flyers' top trio: Not to put too fine a point on it, but if the Flyers' top line of Simon Gagne, Mike Richards and Jeff Carter does not get going, especially five-on-five, the Flyers are cooked.

The trio scored a power-play goal in Game 2 but are a combined minus-10 and were ineffective for much of the first five periods of this series. Carter said he felt fine even though he's scored in just one of four games he's played since returning from a broken foot.

"We've got to put the puck in the net," Carter said. "We've created a few chances. I think we've had some good spurts and some tough ones, but we'll be ready to go."

Flyers coach Peter Laviolette insisted Carter looks good and pointed out the line had many of the team's good scoring chances in the third period of Game 2.

"Carter figured in a lot of them," Laviolette said. "Typically that tells me when a player starts to figure into the chances like that, it's only a matter of time before they explode."

One thing that may enhance the line's chances of success in Philadelphia is that Laviolette has the last line change and may be able to get the trio away from Chicago's effective checking unit centered by Dave Bolland.

2. Toews and Kane: Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane are without a point in this series, and Toews has failed to score in four straight postseason games. The Chicago captain has just three shots on goal in this series, even though he looked more engaged in Game 2.

There are two ways to look at this: the Hawks are deep enough to win without their two top offensive players, which is a good thing for Chicago and a bad thing for Philadelphia; or the Hawks are courting disaster by not having their top players contribute because, at some point, it's going to catch up with them.

Kane said Wednesday morning he thinks the whole unit has been trying too hard and he specifically needs to stop worrying about scoring and just play.

Hawks coach Joel Quenneville pointed out that two of the team's top-line players (Dustin Byfuglien and Toews) were on the ice when Ben Eager scored the game-winner in Game 2, so he's not too worried. Not yet, anyway.

3. Flyers "won't quit"? There was so much discussion about the Flyers' ability to thrive in the face of adversity heading into Game 3. Their past speaks for itself, winning the final game of the regular season in a shootout and coming back from a 3-0 series deficit and 3-0 deficit in Game 7 to eliminate Boston. But none of that means anything if the Flyers can't bring that experience to bear against Chicago at home Wednesday night.

"When you're down in the series or you're faced with goaltending injuries or you have to win in the shootout on the last day of the year, there's a lot of things that add up for this team that says they won't go away," Laviolette said. "And like I said before, we've been in a situation since Christmas where it's been time to pack it in. ... And yet we're still here. It's the beginning of June. We're pretty happy to be here, and the guys won't quit. They just won't. That's why I sit up here today confident about our ability to win a hockey game tonight."

The problem for the Flyers is the Hawks are 7-1 on the road this spring.

"Well, Vancouver and San Jose were very hostile buildings," Hawks winger Troy Brouwer said Wednesday morning. "Tonight's no different. We'll just try to grind the game down a little bit, and when we get opportunities, we finish."

In short, Brouwer believes his team tries too hard at times to put on a show at home but focuses more closely on the game plan on the road.

"When you're at home, you want the crowd into it," said Brouwer. "You want the excitement in the building and nothing brings that on like fast play down the middle and creating chances. But when you're on the road, you don't care about the fans; you try to get them out of the game a little bit."

4. Battling emotions: By now, everyone has heard about Chris Pronger denying the Blackhawks the puck at the end of Game 2 and getting into it with Eager. It's been funny, but it also underscores the building emotions that should be plainly evident in Game 3.

Players in both locker rooms -- pretty much unknown to each other given the fact the two teams rarely play during the regular season -- described heightened feelings of animosity toward each other after Game 2. Playing in front of a raucous Wachovia Center crowd, the Flyers will have to work to ensure their adrenaline is properly focused to start the game; the Blackhawks will want to avoid taking early emotional or retaliatory penalties and getting snowed under. The bottom line is, these teams now have a healthy dislike for each other and it will make for interesting drama in Game 3.

5. The battle in net: Now, we're going to go out on a limb to suggest that unless Michael Leighton can outplay Antti Niemi, the Flyers have no chance in this series.

Leighton was lifted in Game 1 after giving up five goals on 20 shots, and the Flyers lost 6-5. He was much better in Game 2, but we didn't like the Eager goal that beat Leighton over the shoulder for the winner in a 2-1 game. Yes, Leighton was screened, but it's the kind of goal Niemi didn't allow, even when the Flyers dominated the third period.

The Flyers need to find a way to get to Niemi for three or four goals and give Leighton a little breathing room, or Leighton is simply going to have to find a way to be just as good as his counterpart. Leighton did just that in the Eastern Conference finals, shutting out Montreal in three of five games and allowing just two goals in the Flyers' four wins. Of course, the problem is Niemi is riding a seven-game winning streak and has won 10 of 11 contests. Tall order.

Scott Burnside

ESPN Senior Writer




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