Not much has eluded Patrick Sharp this postseason. But there is one thing he can't put his finger on.
Chicago's success on the road in these playoffs is bordering on historic. When quizzed for his theory on the success, Sharp is stumped. The Blackhawks were one of the better road teams during the regular season, but what they've done in the postseason is staggering.
"I've been asked that question a lot during the playoffs and I don't have an answer for you," said Sharp, a former Flyer who is tied for the team lead with eight goals in the postseason. "I just think that we're a team that gets along well off the ice, and we enjoy each other's company."
The Blackhawks' primary focus tonight will be taking the next step toward winning their first Stanley Cup since JFK was the president and not a really busy airport in New York. Should it make this series 3-0, Chicago will set an NHL record for consecutive road wins in a single postseason. When the Blackhawks won Game 2 at San Jose in the Western Conference final, Chicago became the fifth team to win seven road games in a row. No one has made it eight.
"We're stuck with each other for a long time, and we enjoy each other's company," Sharp continued. "Sometimes that translates on the ice. [But] our past success doesn't have much to do with [tonight's] game. It's start from scratch and we have to play our best to win."
The Flyers have played very well at the Wachovia Center and hope the advantages of being at home extend beyond the familiar surroundings and the 18,000 or so orange-clad maniacs in the stands. The Flyers now have the opportunity of last line change and get favorable positioning in the faceoff circle. Did you happen to notice how many of their guys were tossed taking draws in Chicago?
The Flyers expect an emotional lift as well, which should help their subpar first-period performances.
"We're playing some good hockey at home," Flyers forward Jeff Carter said. "So obviously it's pretty easy to come out and get fired up and play hard in front of our fans. They're there game in and game out, cheering us on, which makes it a lot easier to go out there. It's nice to be back."
The Flyers are 7-1 at home during the playoffs. But San Jose was 6-0 at the Shark Tank before Chicago won the first two games of that series.
"I think we just play a more simple game," veteran Chicago center John Madden said. "We're not so worried about line matches. We're not so worried about certain things. We're just out there playing hockey and sticking together. When we're able to play a simple game, we seem to be able to roll the lines and have better forechecking and just keep playing."
Fourth-line center John Madden, on the other hand, has plenty of experience playing in Philadelphia.
He spent his first nine seasons with the Devils, won two Stanley Cups and was part of the squad that rallied from a 3-1 deficit to stun the Flyers in the 2000 Eastern Conference final. Though he hasn't hit the score sheet in the last 12 games, Madden's contribution comes in killing penalties and providing leadership. You've heard of the Conn Smythe Trophy. If the youthful Blackhawks go on to sweep this thing, Madden could be in line for the Consigliere Smythe.
"Yeah, there's been a lot of talk, just one-on-ones with a few guys," he said. "Lots of questions about my experience playing in maybe this building or in certain finals, certain things have happened. I just shared my experience."
Quenneville offered no insight as to whether winger Andrew Ladd would be available for tonight's game. Ladd has an upper-body injury and missed the first two games of the finals . . . The Blackhawks' eight goals in the series have been scored by seven players. Patrick Sharp (two) is the only Chicago player with more than one . . . Ben Eager and Sharp were on the Phantoms team that won the 2005 AHL's Calder Cup at the Wachovia Center. Current Flyers Jeff Carter and Mike Richards were late-season additions to the Philadelphia team that was coached by John Stevens. They beat Braydon Coburn's Chicago Wolves . . . Monday garnered the highest overnight rating for a Game 2 since such things started being tracked in 1975. The 4.1 rating and 7 share were a 21 percent increase over last season's equivalent between Pittsburgh and Detroit. The top five markets tuning in were Chicago, Philadelphia, Buffalo, Indianapolis and Pittsburgh. *