CHICAGO - We interrupt this Conn Smythe Trophy engraving ceremony to bring you a special announcement.
Chris Pronger has not killed the Blackhawks just yet. In fact, last night, the spear was reversed.
Chicago coach Joel Quenneville switched his lines around specifically because Pronger and defensive partner Matt Carle were nullifying Chicago's top line of Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Dustin Byfuglien.
Pronger came into the game a very impressive plus-7 for the series. He was minus-5 last night. Picture Roy Halladay pitching a perfect game and then getting torched for 10 runs in the first two innings in his next start.
He may have lost his Midas touch for a night, but not his sense of humor. When a reporter pointed out that he was on the ice for six of the seven goals (one was a power play) in the 7-4 loss, Pronger responded: "Thanks. Good of you to notice . . . There's really not much else to say."
The one tally Chicago netted when he wasn't on the ice, he was in the penalty box for hooking Kane. It was fitting that Byfuglien scored that particular goal. The burly Byfuglien was the forward whom Pronger had frustrated the most through the first four games of this series.
Despite the disparity in production - Byfuglien had two goals and two assists - Pronger still found time to needle Byfuglien after the game.
"He must have been well rested," Pronger jabbed.
Byfuglien, who came into the game with just one assist in the series, showed very little emotion after his goals. Not even the empty-netter that has brought the Blackhawks to the brink of their first Stanley Cup since 1961.
"I was focused, ready," Byfuglien said. "I knew what I had to do; just stuck to my game plan and never got away from it."
Byfuglien was on Dave Bolland's line along with Kris Versteeg. Kane was on a line with Patrick Sharp. Toews generally centered Marian Hossa and Tomas Kopecky. The result was the most goals the Flyers have given up in a playoff game since 2006.
"I just don't think we played very well, to be honest with you," Pronger deadpanned. "I don't think it really would have mattered who we were matched up against. They got an awful lot of bounces their way, but they earned them."
It's the first time in his 169-game postseason career that he posted a minus-5. He had never so much been a minus-4, though he was a minus-3 three times, including Game 3 against Montreal this year. Carle was a minus-3. Hey, Lukas Krajicek was a plus-2!
"Sometimes it happens. Sometimes you're on the ice when the other team scores," Kimmo Timonen said. "I don't think you can blame any of those goals on [Pronger's] play. There was five guys out there, a team effort. We just have to get better."
Timonen also refused to put the blame for the Flyers' defensive failings on Chicago's line changes. The first period was a particular killer as the Blackhawks opened a 3-0 lead.
"I'm sure that helped, but we didn't play that well," he said. "Obviously, we made them look better than they are, I think. It was a big game . . . but we have to move on."
In the good times during this improbable run, his Flyers teammates remarked that Pronger's calm demeanor in the face of logging 30 minutes in the beehive of a playoff game was astounding. He entered the night as one of a handful of candidates for the Conn Smythe, given to the playoff MVP. Now, the bigger prize is in jeopardy as his team trails three games to two.
Afterward, he wasn't happy with his performance, but Pronger wasn't surly either. Perhaps he was just trying to project the attitude that this wild season isn't over just yet. Wednesday is Game 6 at the Wachovia Center where the Flyers have won seven in a row and nine of the 10 in the postseason. The tip of the spear can still be turned the other way.