Five lingering questions after the Flyers take Game 4 vs. Chicago

PHILADELPHIA -- This may come as a surprise, but they play a lot of music from "Rocky" here at the Wachovia Center.

In keeping with that unavoidable theme: The Philadelphia Flyers had a knockout going for most of Game 4 against the Chicago Blackhawks ... but ultimately won via unanimous decision.

"We're just trying to make it exciting for the fans," said defenseman Matt Carle(notes), with a laugh. "It was a sick feeling in our stomachs a little bit, but in the end we got the win."

The game should have been over in the first period, when Niklas Hjalmarsson(notes) served up turnovers on a Pennsylvania Dutch Country-level of delectability to the Flyers; and the Chicago defense committed the unconscionable sin of allowing Kimmo Timonen(notes) to be wide open in finding an even wider-open Claude Giroux(notes) to answer Patrick Sharp's(notes) late first-period goal.

It's harsh to say the Blackhawks "quit" for the next 30 minutes or so; let's leave it as the Blackhawks "didn't play their game" until the furious rally at the end to cut the final deficit to 5-3.

Coming up, five lingering questions from the Flyers' Game 4 victory; some that may be answered on Saturday as the teams return to Chicago, and others that won't be addressed until the puck drops in Game 5 Sunday night.

1. Will Chicago scramble its top line?

"You'd have to ask them. I don't have an observation," said Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger(notes) after the game, standing on a riser in the locker room that made him appear roughly 27 feet tall.

Pronger is, of course, the primary reason why the previously unstoppable trio of Dustin Byfuglien(notes), Jonathan Toews(notes) and Patrick Kane(notes) has been stopped. Coach Joel Quenneville started drawing numbers like a bingo caller in the third period. Toews and Kane with Marian Hossa(notes); Toews and Byfuglien with Andrew Ladd(notes), which was on the ice for Brian Campbell's(notes) goal; Kane with Troy Brouwer(notes) and Dave Bolland(notes).

If Toews and Kane are kept together, the best option would be to move Patrick Sharp to their line, as someone having a strong Finals series. Unfortunately, that would torpedo the team's second line, so the most realistic option would be a shift of Troy Brouwer to that line.

If Toews and Kane are split, Quenneville could do worse that slotting Kane on the Bolland line as a counterpunching winger, and one who could use a little defensive support after his minus-4 in Game 4. And maybe all of it will mean getting Chicago's big guns away from Pronger.

2. Can the Flyers do this on the road?

As dire as things may seem for Chicago, the bottom line is that they don't have to win a road game to win the Stanley Cup -- while the Flyers have to win one.

The Flyers are now 9-1 in the friendly confines (well, for them) of Wachovia Center. Can this team offer up this effort in Chicago, where they dropped Games 1 and 2?

"I think we can have a better effort than we had tonight," said winger Danny Briere(notes). "In Game 1 and 2 it could have gone either way."

3. Can Chicago score on the man advantage?

We know the Blackhawks can score on the two-man advantage, as they did in Game 4. But Chicago is now 0-for-8 in 5-on-4 hockey -- a crippling failure of its special teams in a series where one goal has been the difference in nearly every game.

There were good signs in Game 4: The Blackhawks were perfect on power-play face-offs (7-for-7) and had six shots in two 5-on-4s. But the struggles of Byfuglien and Toews and Kane also affect the power play; get them sorted out, and perhaps special teams will.

4. Can Niemi rebound after back-to-back losses?

For the first time in the playoffs, Antti Niemi(notes) has back-to-back losses, even if at least three of the goals weren't his fault.

"Antti has battled for us. He did tonight. You can't blame him on some of those goals," said defenseman Brent Sopel(notes). "He battled hard. We left him high and dry."

But the fact remains that the potential Conn Smythe keeper dropped two on the road. He's bailed them out before when they've needed him; Game 5 could be another postseason-defining challenge for Niemi.

5. Finally, do the Blackhawks have enough left in the tank?

Quenneville said the Flyers "were dictating a little bit more than we would like," and there's no question they had the better jump in Game 4. Is that a matter of playing in front of the Orange Crush or being, perhaps, the more energetic team this deep in the postseason?

From the Sun-Times:

The game Friday was the 102nd of the regular season and postseason for the Hawks.

''Did you count the exhibitions? How about the Olympics?'' Kane said. ''It's been a lot of games for us, for sure. But to be honest with you, no one is fatigued in here. We've had a lot of rest throughout the season. They gave us the proper days off.''

The emotional high of playing for the Stanley Cup alone should be more than enough of a boost for all the players. As defenseman Brent Seabrook(notes) put it: ''This is the Stanley Cup finals. We're all excited to be out there.''

For the Blackhawks' sake, Game 5 should exhibit more of that enthusiasm. Because the Flyers looked like the excited ones in Game 4.

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