Five things to watch for in Game 5

June, 6, 2010

CHICAGO -- Here are five things to watch for in tonight's pivotal Game 5 of the Stanley Cup finals:

1. Can the Blackhawks avoid another slow start? Chicago has given up the first goal in six of its past eight playoff games. True, the Hawks are 6-2 during that stretch, but it's still not a trend that generally buys you a lot of success.

"I think it matters," Hawks center Patrick Sharp said Sunday morning after the team's pregame skate. "We would like to push the pace. It's easier to play with a lead."

The first goal also would get the loud United Center crowd into it early, just as the Flyers got their fans involved by opening the scoring in both games at Wachovia Center.

2. Will the third period from Game 4 carry over to tonight? The Hawks scored twice and dominated the final 10 minutes of the game. "We can play better than what we've showed, and I think we showed it in the third period the other night," Sharp said.

Or was it just Philadelphia relaxing after taking a 4-1 lead? Flyers defenseman Braydon Coburn said his team isn't worried about the third-period lag in Game 4. "We definitely want to play better than we did," he said Sunday.

Flyers forward Blair Betts said it's natural for a team to let down a bit after it has a big lead. "You don't want to," but it happens, Betts said.

3. Which forward lines will Hawks coach Joel Quenneville show up with tonight? He's famous for scrambling the eggs whenever his team hits a rough patch.The lines at Sunday's morning skate: Dustin Byfuglien-Jonathan Toews-Patrick Kane, Tomas Kopecky-Sharp-Marian Hossa, Kris Versteeg-Dave Bolland-Adam Burish, Ben Eager-John Madden-Troy Brouwer. Don't read too much into it; the players certainly weren't. For starters, Andrew Ladd didn't skate, but Quenneville said later that he would play tonight. Burish seemed out of place on Bolland's line, so he may be out again.

"We'll look going into the game at maybe some tweaks," Quenneville said of the forward lines.

"We'll find out tonight," Eager told when asked about the forward lines. "The balls are still spinning in there."

The key decision for Quenneville will be whether to split up Kane and Toews as he did in the third period of Game 4. The benefit in doing that is to keep one of them away from Flyers shutdown man Chris Pronger. Then again, maybe Quenneville would keep them together to start the game and get a feel for them before deciding whether to shuffle again.

4. Will the homer series continue tonight? The home team is 4-0 in this series, similar to the 2003 Cup finals between New Jersey and Anaheim, when the home team went 7-0. "It's down to a best-of-three, and there's no better way than to start it at home," Toews, the Hawks' captain, said Sunday morning.

"We kind of assumed before the series started we would have to win on the road," Betts said. "I don't think the home team has necessarily dominated significantly [through the first four games]."

5. Will the Flyers continue to rule on special teams? Philadelphia has five power-play goals to Chicago's one and is enjoying 16 power-play chances to the Hawks' nine. It's a trend that would destroy the Hawks and hand the Flyers the Cup. Philadelphia has shown tremendous discipline and deserves to be ahead on power plays. The Hawks keep saying it to us, but they have to prove it tonight: no more stupid penalties. With the Flyers humming at 31 percent on the power play in the Cup finals, the Hawks cannot afford to lose their cool again.

Pierre LeBrun

ESPN Senior Writer




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