Three things to watch in Flyers' Game 2
CHICAGO -- There have been about a dozen media availabilities in the last week and only one game played, which amounts to too much talk and not enough action. Game 2, though, is upon us -- and the coaching wheels are beginning to spin. Three things to watch, then:
1) The Carcillo effect. We know this much, that Dan Carcillo will enter the lineup for Game 2 against the Blackhawks and that James van Riemsdyk will exit. The notion that Carcillo is coming in because the Flyers were terribly outhit in Game 1 or weren't physical enough is kind of overstating things -- but that's what the Stanley Cup Final is about, after all -- a big stage and big overstatements. More on this below.
2) The Parent trap. The other lineup change is that Ryan Parent is almost certainly coming out on defense. Then again, after playing only 41 seconds in Game 1 -- during which he lost his stick and the Flyers gave up a goal -- that decision was pretty obvious from that point on. The assumption is that Oskars Bartulis -- who played a little in the first round against New Jersey -- will be back again. This, though, is not a huge deal. If Bartulis plays 5 minutes, it will be an upset.
3) The goaltender's leash. After allowing five goals and getting yanked out of Game 1, Michael Leighton is back for more. Two points: 1) the defense in front of him was weak, and 2) Leighton did not make a big save, not one. To completely absolve the goaltender here is to deny the reality of the sport. Leighton should be on a short leash. If the Flyers fall behind by 2-0, and there is even the whiff of softness in Leighton's play, Flyers coach Peter Laviolette is probably going to have to go get him, and probably for good, in favor of Brian Boucher (who seems fine physically after Game 1, his first action following two knee sprains suffered in the conference finals).
Now, back to Carcillo.
To me, this was not an out-hit thing and that's not why Carcillo is back in the lineup. Nobody is going to confirm the line combinations, but it seems logical that Carcillo will go back on the top line, next to Mike Richards and either Jeff Carter or Simon Gagne (probably Carter, but that's just a guess). What it would do is further balance the scoring on the first three lines, with, say, Gagne now playing next to Claude Giroux on the third line. The second line of Danny Briere-Scott Hartnell-Ville Leino, so productive in Game 1, would remain intact.
So it gives you a chance to balance the scoring if Laviolette plays it that way. What it also does is put another hitter on the top line. This is where it gets interesting. Assuming that the Blackhawks play it the same way in Game 2, their top defense pair -- Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook -- will spend most of their time shadowing the top line. In Game 1, by my quick calculation, Keith was out against Richards on 20 out of Richards' final 21 shifts of the game. Even if I missed one or two along the way, the point remains. If the Blackhawks keep playing it that way, and if Keith -- a Norris Trophy finalist -- continues to play at an elite level, the Flyers are going to need to try to wear down both him and Seabrook physically. That's where Carcillo comes in. He can join Richards in the attempt to pound the Blackhawks' top defense pair.
The point is that the Flyers were not passive in any sense in Game 1. (If you want to go by the official hit chart compiled by the league, the Flyers had 40 hits in Game 1 and the Blackhawks had 37.) The lack of penalties had nothing to do with anything -- and it helped the Flyers. They skated well, scored five goals, were too loose on defense and didn't get good-enough goaltending -- but they were not passive. Carcillo is not re-entering the lineup to fire people up -- there was plenty of fire.
To me, it's a very strategic, tactical thing -- further balance the scoring, and lean on Duncan Keith more than in Game 1. The rest of it is just talk, filling the time between actions.