And with respect to my friend Steve Lepore, I'd actually say this series is taking on more of a Buffalo-Dallas vibe from 1999.
But I can see Steve's point. After the Devils won Game 1 of that series by a 7-3 score, the rest of the games were decided by the following scores:
2-1, 2-1, 3-1, 1-0, 2-1.
In other words, defense and goaltending took over after taking Game 1 off. And tonight followed that script as both teams combined for three goals after Game 1 saw the goal light lit 11 times.
But that series didn't really generate a lot of hate between both teams. Certainly not like 1999, when Buffalo struck first in a relatively emotionless and non-physical game that was won off the stick of Jason Wooley in OT. Come Game 2, the Stars made it a point to be more physical.
By the end of the first period in that game, Dominik Hasek and Jamie Langebrunner were snoot to snoot and Joe Nieuwendyk and Brian Holzinger dropped the gloves and fought. It was at that point where I felt the series truly began as both teams had finally built up a healthy amount of hatred.
Tonight, it hate started to build the moment Daniel Carcillo stepped onto the ice and took runs at whoever he could find in a Blackhawks jersey. The Hawks responded in kind. And after Carcillo tried to run Tomas Kopecky and accidentally caught more of his own teammate, Jeff Carter, Kopecky was there to rub it in along with a mic'ed up Adam Burish.
Just like in 1999, we may look at that moment as the moment where the series truly began from a competitive and healthy hatred standpoint.
More to come after the jump.
And as hockey fans know, healthy hatred can be intoxicating. And tonight, it made goal scoring a premium as both defenses and netminders really ratcheted things up.
Speaking of netminders, Peter Laviolette caused a bit of controversy yesterday when he announced he was going back to Michael Leighton after pulling him in the second period of Game 1. To me, It was the right decision.
Leighton played spectacular in his previous eight playoff games for the Flyers and Brian Boucher still didn't look quite himself in the third period Saturday night. And Leighton was due for a crappy game.
Even in the midst of Antti Niemi's great playoff run where he's now set a Blackhawks franchise record for wins at 14, he turned in some crappy games against the Canucks in the second round. He bounced back every time the following game. And Leighton certainly did tonight in keeping the game scoreless late into the second period.
Unfortunately for Leighton, he learned the same lesson Evgeni Nabokov did in the Western Conference Finals. To be better than Niemi sometimes mean you can't blink. Moments after Marian Hossa broke through off a rebound of a Troy Brouwer shot to snap the scoreless, Ben Eager skated in off the right wing and fired a wrist shot over the glove hand of the Flyers goaltender to make it 2-0.
Simon Gagne got one of those goals back with a power play marker in the third period. But he also missed a golden chance to tie the game when a shot rebounded off Niemi right into the skates of the Flyers' forward. The puck jammed Gagne and he shanked his shot, allowing the flexible Finnish goaltender to slide his pad over and make the stop.
After that, the Hawks forwards and defensemen went into shot blocking mode. When shots did come in, Niemi comfortably turned them aside and allowed Eager's wrister to stand up as the game winner.
Obviously as a Hawks fan, I'm happy to be up 2-0 in this series. Especially since the Hawks top line of Kane-Toews-Byfuglien hardly made a peep in the first two games. To be sure, Daniel Briere was held to one shot tonight so it's hardly like the Flyers have been hitting on all offensive cylinders themselves.
But unlike other series where the team with home ice advantage wins it's first two home games, I don't know if you can suggest the Hawks have control of this series. Rather, they've simply held serve.
Lest we forget, the Flyers are 7-1 at home in the playoffs this year. And as the third period demonstrated, they are quite the resilient bunch that will be hard to put away.
Just like the Stars found out against Buffalo in 1999.