The Blackhawks have the edge in games won, but we saw how much that meant last year, when Pittsburgh won two straight -- including Game 7 in Detroit -- to take the Cup.
Heading into a pair of off days before Game 6, there will undoubtedly be a lot of talk about the officiating after Game 5. Sunday night's Chicago win featured a number of missed calls that were caught by NBC and shown to the world.
While Chicago was the team griping -- at least privately -- about the officiating during Games 3 and 4 of the series, two huge calls went against the Flyers in Game 5 Sunday.
Blackhawks vs. Flyers Series Page
The first of those was a dubious hooking call on defenseman Chris Pronger in the second period. Yes, Pronger got his stick parallel to the ice and appeared to impede the progress of forward Patrick Kane as he skated towards the slot from behind the net. However, setting that as a standard to call a penalty in this series would mean a constant parade of players to the penalty box.
The worst miss of the night also went against Philly. In the third period, with Chicago leading 5-3, defenseman Duncan Keith caught Flyer Danny Briere in the face with the blade of his stick. It wasn't intentional, but it caused quite an impressive gash below Briere's right eye. What should have been a four-minute double-minor on Keith was a no-call, because four guys in striped shirts somehow missed it.
Briere didn't miss much time, and he says he will play in Game 6.
The fact they missed that play, along with two obvious open-ice cross-checks by Flyer defenseman on Chicago forwards, and a high-stick to Chicago defenseman Brian Campbell's face, means both teams could come away from Sunday night's game a little miffed at the officials.
Bill McCreary and Dan O'Halloran were the referees assigned to Game 5. They also worked Games 1 and 3 of the series. Steven Walkom and Kelly Sutherland worked Games 2 and 4.
Among the overall issues with officiating in these playoffs has been the increased ignoring of obstruction violations, along with a generally inconsistent standard of what makes a penalty.
We saw that again Sunday, with Pronger still getting away with a lot of obstruction, especially on dump-in plays, and then getting called for what would at best be a ticky-tack hook that led to a Chicago power-play goal.
George Malik derides the contention that players are being allowed to decide the games.
It's stupid. The NHL refuses to referee games with any sort of consistency from games 1 to 82, never mind playoff games, and as such, players can never really adapt to a "standard" that changes every night...and it doesn't matter whether Chris Pronger's doing the grabbing or someone else attempts to give an opposing player a prostate exam on the ice. The level of obstruction let go in the finals is simply unacceptable.In all fairness, bad officiating has affected all teams in these playoffs. This isn't about the Blackhawks or Flyers getting jobbed. Instead, it's hockey fans who are getting jobbed.
No one can look at the call on Pronger from Game 5 and conclude it was a good one. Officials have been letting Pronger -- and a slew of other players -- get away with stick violations much worse than that throughout the playoffs. Calling that one at that time will not serve as any kind of deterrent for the rest of the Finals.
Way too many times in this series, NBC announcers have been left to show replays of blatantly obvious calls that weren't made, then make comments about how the players are giving their all in the series, and how games like these are "not for the faint of heart."
They're also not for anyone who wants to blow their horn about "the new NHL." Come playoff time, the new NHL looks an awful lot like the old one.