Scott Niedermayer: Get ready for a great Stanley Cup finish
Four-time Stanley Cup winner Scott Niedermayer of the Ducks shares his unique perspective and thoughts with The Times' readers during the Stanley Cup finals. Here he reviews the Philadelphia Flyers' 5-3 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 4.
Well here we are, all tied up at two games apiece. It’s now down to a best-of-three series and if the first four games were any indication, it should be a great finish.
The home team has won all four games of the series and that doesn’t happen very often. When I was in New Jersey and played Anaheim in the 2003 Stanley Cup finals, that’s the way the entire series played out. The series went to a Game 7 and we ended up winning the Stanley Cup in New Jersey. The travel between Chicago and Philadelphia isn’t as bad as it was in 2003, so I don’t think that is having any effect on the teams. It will be interesting to see the outcome of this series, but for whatever reason I think the home team had a definite advantage in 2003. If I had to guess why that was, I’d suspect playing in rinks you weren’t familiar with, traveling that neither team was accustomed to and the overall makeup of the teams.
The Flyers stepped up in their home rink and played two good games of hockey. I think they really set off their fans and used that to create an intensity that Chicago wasn’t able to match.
I’m not surprised at how well my former teammate Chris Pronger is playing. Everybody says that he’s an aggressive, physical player who is hard to play against, which he is. To me, he is a very, very smart player. That goes a long way no matter if you’re 6-6 or 5-10. He knows how to use his strengths as a player to take advantage of the opposition. He is very good with the puck and understands the game very well. It makes him effective and he’s helped the Flyers even this series.
He created some talk after picking up the game pucks following losses in Games 1 and 2 in Chicago. He enjoys annoying people and I think that’s what he thought it would do. I don’t know if it did annoy the Blackhawks but I wasn’t surprised to hear what he did. That’s part of his makeup as a player and his personality as a player. He loves to make it tough on the other team, whether it’s mentally or physically.
It’s always nice to have a guy like that on your side because when he’s not, he’s getting under your skin and that’s no fun. It’s tough playing against him. He’s a good defender who makes you earn everything. He’s smart with the puck and I think that really helps the offense. He has a good shot and he knows how and when to use it. He’s effective in many areas of the game.
Game 5 will be Chicago’s toughest test of these playoffs. You would think they would get it sometime in the Stanley Cup finals and they’re getting it now. If they want to be a champion, now is the time to realize how they need to play and do it Sunday night. It’s a big game for the Blackhawks.
Overall, it’s been a great series so far. I would love for it to continue along those lines and get even better. The nature of being at the end of the series is going to make for some extremely entertaining hockey. As a fan of hockey, that’s what I’m looking for – a great, evenly matched and hard-fought series. It looks like that’s exactly what we are getting.
-- Scott Niedermayer
Photo: Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger tries to move Chicago's Dustin Byfuglien out of the crease for goalkeeper Michael Leighton during Game 4 on Friday night. Credit: Bruce Bennett / Getty Images