Lapse in judgment costs Flyers

STEVE SIMMONS, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:40 PM ET

CHICAGO - Peter Laviolette ought to know better.

But a momentary lapse in judgment, if that’s what it was, has the Chicago Blackhawks well on their way to their first Stanley Cup in 49 years and Laviolette’s Philadelphia Flyers in a terrible position to come back and win this best of seven series.

Sometimes the difference in a championship that can be that minute. One bad change. One bad matchup. One lapse in thinking.

One misinterpretation.

All playoffs long, Laviolette has gone out of his way to shelter his fifth and sixth defenceman, playing them little, keeping them away from the best players on the team Philadelphia was beating. But one shift late in the second period Monday night, one dubious decision could well turn out to be the determination that changes the Stanley Cup final from tight as can be to one-sided, proved costly for the Flyers.

Laviolette stumbles

It all went back to the final three minutes of the second period of Game 2, which was the complete opposite of Game 1.

In Game 1, there were 10 goals scored in the first two periods. It looked, until the Laviolette stumble, that the first two periods Monday could go without any scoring.

But for reasons the coach will have to explain, because he had the ability to make a line change, he left his last two defencemen, Oskars Bartulis and Lukas Krajicek, on the ice against the line of Marian Hossa, Patrick Sharp and Troy Brouwer.

And suddenly, a Stanley Cup final that was very much in doubt doesn’t seem to be in doubt anymore. It wasn’t an icing call. It was a puck frozen by goaltender Michael Leighton — and then a mismatch no big time coach should ever face.

Two of the best Hawk forwards against the two worst Chicago defenceman.

One nothing Blackhawks, which ended up 2-1 on the night. Two nothing in the series for the Hawks. Can you say Stanley Cup champions?

On the first goal Monday night — a huge goal in a tight conservative game — the Chicago line dominated Laviolette’s mismatched Flyers’ defence. Troy Bouwer secured the puck deep in the Blackhawks zone, fed a pass to a wide open Sharp, whose shot was stopped by Leighton.

But at the goal crease, Krajicek couldn’t physically handle Hossa, who beat him for a rebound and fired the puck past Leighton, who had little chance.

The goal — after Philadelphia had numerous chances to go ahead and sometimes overpassed the puck rather than shot on Antti Niemi — absolutely unhinged Laviolette’s team and apparently Leighton.

Twenty-eight seconds after Laviolette’s brain cramp, Leighton got caught napping himself. The aptly named Ben Eager, hardly a goal scorer of any significance, came over the blue line with speed and from way too far out, and nowhere near goal scoring territory, Eager’s high wrist shot eluded Leighton.

That made it 2-0 in the game, about to be 2-0 in the series.

What made the Laviolette coaching gaffe so surprising was how well he has protected his fifth and sixth defenceman throughout the playoffs. In Game 1, Ryan Parent played one shift, all of 41 seconds, was scored on, and never played again.

Benched

Last night, Parent was benched in favour of Bartulis, who was playing just his third game of the playoffs and hasn’t made an appearance since Game 2 against the New Jersey Devils, a loss in the first round.

If you sit out a guy for two straight rounds behind defenceman you don’t trust, you can’t play them against a big time line. Especially because Game 2 was the complete reversal of

Game 1: In Game 1, it was last shot wins. In Game 2, it was first goal has an excellent chance of being the winner.

Philadelphia was playing almost a perfect road game, having quieted the crowd, kept the Blackhawks at bay. The Flyers had a chance to win Game 1, had a chance to win Game 2. Game 1, they lost on their own.

They got help in Game 2: Their coach made a decision he already regrets.


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