"He's an overwhelming presence, on and off the ice," says Craig Simpson, the CBC analyst who was an Oilers assistant coach in 2005--06. "There's ego. There's opinion. With Chris, you take the good with the bad. There's been some sense of a tug-of-war in the dressing room because of his personality with every team he's been on. His actions . . . there can be a sense of arrogance about them. But he's always able to back it up on the ice."
Then came the Game 5 debacle, in which Quenneville shuffled Toews, Kane and Byfuglien off to separate lines and Pronger and the Flyers played much of the game in a trance. On Chicago's opening power-play goal, Pronger touched the puck on its way from behind the net to Seabrook at the left circle and touched the puck again when Keith's mate fired it into the net. He abandoned Chicago forward Kris Versteeg when he came down and cut to the middle on the third Blackhawks goal. He blocked a shot on Chicago's fourth but couldn't control the rebound. He was in the penalty box for hooking when Byfuglien, unfettered, tapped in the fifth goal after a snappy five-pass sequence in which Keith made the penultimate dish. On the Blackhawks' empty-netter, Byfuglien simply shot the puck past him. Filled in on the statistical debris that littered his fright night—he was -5 after having been +7 through four games—Pronger replied, "Thanks for the green jacket."
Pronger had as many rim shots as shots on goal: one.
Now it's hard being a stand-up guy, or stand-up comedian, when an emboldened Byfuglien has knocked you down. Twice. Byfuglien was able to wallpaper Pronger in the corner in the second period and along the boards in the third precisely because the Hawks finally made Pronger turn, skate and work. When it later was suggested that Game 5 was the first match in which his nemesis had an impact, Pronger said, "I guess he's well-rested." Meaning Big Buff hadn't been doing much? "I guess," Pronger repeated, "he's well-rested."
Unlike Keith, his Blackhawks counterpart, Pronger still had some bite.
Eager gleefully pounced on the puck at the end of the match, then seemed to taunt the Flyers with his souvenir. As with most things, Pronger shrugged. He vowed to recover in time for Game 6. He listed himself as "day-to-day, with hurt feelings."
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