Philadelphia Flyers' Scott Hartnell (19) and Chicago Blackhawks' Bryan Bickell fight during the first period in an NHL hockey game in Chicago on Sunday, Jan. 23, 2011. (AP Photo/Charles Cherney)
Maybe we should have known right about the time Jeff Carter batted in the Flyers third goal. Or perhaps it's my fault by predicting the Bears would win in the Indian. Or maybe it's just a case of the two Chicago teams in action today facing better teams. That's probably the most likely.
The Hawks started a wretched day in the city by the lake by losing to the best team in hockey, 4-1. I can't decide if that score is about right or makes it worse than it seems, but it's certainly a fair indication of what the 2nd period looked like. As I walked in to the UC today I was shocked to see the Flyers trapping. From the opening faceoff, whenever the Hawks gathered control in their own zone the Flyers sent every player back to the neutral zone. This is the highest scoring team in hockey. Maybe they just wanted to provide a different look than the Hawks last saw. Maybe they were just keeping things tight in the second game of a back-to-back. Whatever it was, it was a departure.
And the Hawks handled it pretty well. With that much manpower between the blue lines, a team is forced to just dump the puck into the offensive zone and go get it. Considering the size of the Flyers, the Hawks had to use their speed to get their first and make a quick play. They did a decent job of this, creating a few chances that on another day Jonathan Toews or Patrick Sharp would have buried. But rookier Sergei Bobrovsky stood tall, looked confident doing it, and the scoresheet was undented after 20 minutes.
Then, in another thing you rarely see, the Flyers abandoned the trap in the 2nd period. They sent two guys in on the forecheck when they could, and took over the game. They threw 19 shots at Corey Crawford, though it seemed like a lot of them came in a couple flurries, including the rugby scrum they scored on after what seemed like a 10-minute scramble in the Hawks crease. When the Hawks did try and attack, they went back to trying to be too cute at the Flyers blue line, consistently having the play broken up and sent back the other way. This allowed the Flyers to gain far too much momentum.
Once the 3rd started, one mistake by Brian Campbell and then he getting caught up with Crawford to allow a Nikolai Zherdev wraparound, followed by a sweet midair swing for a goal from Jeff Carter, and that was that.
-The Flyers are the best team to come into the United Center this year. I can't see a weakness on them, especially if Bobrovsky plays that well. When they force the game to be along the boards, they're as close to unbeatable as it gets because with their size of defense you're just not going to win that many battles for the puck.
-Apparently Coach Q listened to Pat and Eddie yesterday and scratched Jack Skille for John Scott. The Flyers came in far too disciplined to run at anyone, as if Scott deters that anyway. Two other Hawks took fights, one being Bryan Bickell -- who was much more physical today than we've seen him. Naturally a rebound chance fell to Scott that he couldn't do anything with. Not that Skille would have been guaranteed to do so anyway, but I know who I'd bet on.
-Hossa was once again in fine form, rewarded with the first successful penalty shot at home for the Hawks since Ronald Reagan was forgetting where he put his keys in the White House.
-Campbell and Hjalmarsson had just about their worst game today, and the Hawks paid for it.
-If Jonathan Toews is still hurt, and he looks it, and he does one single thing that involves any physical movement during the All-Star break, Sam's gonna get stabby.