For a group with a reputation for being young and cocky, the Chicago Blackhawks were anything but the day after taking the lead in the Stanley Cup final.
Listeners would get the impression it is the Philadelphia Flyers who are blessed with the abundant depth on their roster that allowed them to prosper despite the fact their top line was silenced by the opposition.
"They've got a good team top to bottom," Blackhawks centre Patrick Sharp said Sunday of the Flyers. "They're a physical team. They are very tough to play against.
"I think both teams are very deep and that's why we're both in the finals. Neither of us has relied on one line to carry us."
It is hard to argue the point. In the Blackhawks' 6-5 win on Saturday in the first game of the NHL final, neither team's top line managed so much as a point. The Flyers got eight points from the likes of Scott Hartnell, Blair Betts, Ville Leino and Arron Asham.
However, the night was won by the Blackhawks' second and third lines. Sharp and linemates Marian Hossa and Troy Brouwer provided three goals while centre Dave Bolland and linemates Tomas Kopecky, who was only in the lineup because Andrew Ladd was hurt, and Kris Versteeg also scored three, including the winner from Kopecky.
The key in all this was Hossa, whose past scoring exploits and $7.9-million salary (U.S.) make him far more than a grinder. Indeed, Hossa's two goals and nine assists in 16 playoff games heading into the game drew more than a few critical remarks even though he is appearing in his third consecutive final, albeit with three different teams.
But he was the best player on the ice Saturday, setting up both of Brouwer's goals.
His coach and his teammates repeated what they have been saying about Hossa, who was allowed to skip a media appearance Sunday: His value is in the fact that, unlike many superstars, he plays at both ends of the ice.
"He held on to that puck and was making things happen," Sharp said. "[Brouwer] had two great shots, you can't take anything away from those shots but Hoss created both of those plays.
"Hoss does so much more than just score goals for us that he's a valuable player for our team. He plays physical, he made plays with the puck and he's good defensively. It's not always about scoring goals."
Kopecky says Hossa is a positive influence on the younger players on the team.
"All of those things he does defensively, it's great for the younger players to see what he does to win," Kopecky said.
Another force at both ends of the ice for the Blackhawks is Bolland. He helped shut down the Flyers' big line of Mike Richards, Jeff Carter and Simon Gagné and contributed a shorthanded goal. Given that Bolland's style of play has a lot of sharp edges to it, he thinks Game 2 on Monday night will not only be tighter defensively (there is no way it cannot after that wild Game 1) but nastier.
"Everybody hates it when guys play other guys tough," Bolland said. "I just try to get my stick in the way."
While Bolland relishes his agitator reputation, he does not appreciate his nickname The Rat, which is actually a salute to one of the great shift disturbers of all time, Ken (The Rat) Linseman. Bolland insists his nickname is The Greyhound.
The Flyers are expected to increase the nasty quotient on Monday night by dressing pugnacious forward Daniel Carcillo instead of defenceman Ryan Parent, who earned the wrath of head coach Peter Laviolette in Game 1 with a turnover. That will leave them with five defencemen, which means another 30-plus minutes of ice time for superstar Chris Pronger.
Despite their status as the checking line, Bolland, Kopecky, Versteeg - and Ladd, when healthy - boast a lot of talent. All were big scorers in junior hockey or the minor leagues.
"We can play all four of our lines against their first line," said Kopecky, who came the closest to bragging. "We have confidence in all four lines."Report Typo/Error