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One of the key problems Philadelphia had was Martin Biron wandering the boards. He coughed up the puck to the Pens more often than he helped his defense, and in fact it cost him a goal which allowed Pittsburgh to tie it at 2.
The second area where they had an issue was one of the keys to this series that I said they needed to pay attention to...the backside player for the Penguins. On Pittsburgh's opening goal, the Flyers' Patrick Thoresen coughed up the puck in the neutral zone and the Pens took it the other way. All three backchecking Flyers faced the right side of the ice where the puck was and pursued in that direction, leaving Petr Sykora all alone on the backside. One quick pass later and it's an easy backhand into the net. They got caught with it a couple other times but the Pens missed turning it into goals.
Mike Richards was fabulous and his two goals were good hard nosed Flyer goals. Umberger needs to fire that puck when he gets the chance. Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury made a brilliant pokecheck on Umberger's breakaway. Umberger failed to get a shot AND got absolutely creamed by Orpik afterwards.
On a positive note, the Flyers have controlled the pace of the game, which was another key to the series. They have to keep the game slower, keep Pittsburgh from utilizing their blistering speed. Period One was a patient and grinding pace. That plays well for the Flyers.
The killer is the turnovers. Twice, turnovers specifically converted into goals for the Pens, including the ever deflating late seconds netter for Malkin. Great shot, but an untimely mistake for the Orange and Black.
They end period one down 3-2 but they are not doing anything that can't be corrected. Settle down on the mistakes. Play tight hockey. Ramp up some of the physical play and keep driving the net. Biron needs to be anchored to the crease and someone needs to be tied to Malkin like Shadow to Peter Pan. Let's see how the second period plays out.
First off....what the hell was that? Malkin pulled his best Mario Lemieux impersonation by standing down at the opposing blueline and getting a nice down ice feed following yet another poor turnover by Philadelphia. His very impressive slapshot from 10 feet away was amazing. Not. Sure, he scored. Sure, he put Pittsburgh up 4-2, but really the whole play was kinda stupid. Credit where credit is due, he didn't lay on the ice when he got run over by Mike Richards just seconds beforehand rolling around trying to draw a penalty. He got up and began to make his way back to the defensive zone when he got his blueline feed.
For the Flyers, though, mistakes continue to plague them. Nobody watched to see Malkin standing behind the defense, enabling him to get that breakaway goal. Worse yet, Malkin scored shorthanded. They Flyers have to be more aware of who is on the ice and where they are.
The hitting picked up a bit and the pace still has been in the Flyers comfort zone. Like the previous two series', the Flyer started to have some trouble getting the puck out of their zone...another key I talked about for their success. They have to move out, move out quickly, crisp passes tape to tape, and get more pucks to the net. Umberger and Richards seem to understand that. Get the puck into the corner and get Knuble to start the cycle down low. Put more consistent pressure on the Pens and tire out that defense.
This game is still within reach but it is very evident that the next goal is the lynch pin to the game. Philadelphia must score it and the earlier the better if they have any hope of pulling this one as a victory.
Failure to capitalize on opportunities doomed the Flyers in the third. Jeff Carter all alone on a nice feed and he fails to even register a shot after Fleury challenges him and leaves the net open. It got a little snippy at the end, and it will only get moreso as this series goes on.
The puck bounced around like mad and the Flyers were horrible at containing passes and keeping them on their sticks.
And just an observational question: Where was Danny Briere? He did play. Honest. I think I saw him once and I know I only ever heard his name when the broadcasters were wondering where he was. He was a complete non-factor and he's going to have to change that quickly.
One huge plus for Pittsburgh: the defense did a brilliant job of keeping the lanes clean and allowing Fleury to see all the shots that came his way. Philadelphia did a poor job of mucking up the crease and blocking his sightlines. That also has to change.
All in all, the Flyers did not lose this game because Pittsburgh played outstanding hockey. The Pens did play a good game, but not a stellar game. They were patient and defensively sound, and they made the Flyers pay for the mistakes they made. It's a disappointment, to be sure, but this is not a loss to worry over. They were in the game, they were able to throw their weight around, and I think it won't ultimately matter that Philadelphia lost Game One. After all, they've lost Game One is each series thus far.
Game Two is important and they need to take that one. No going home down by 2.
Did the Flyers miss Timonen? You're damn right they did. It would be nice if that blood clot would clear up in time for him to get into this series but we have to be realistic and just count on folks like Braden Coburn to pull the extra weight. No looking back. The game is done and gone. And this team is not about making excuses...they got beat because of poor decisions and execution with the puck and because Pittsburgh converted those opportunities they were given. End of story.
Bring on Game Two on Sunday.
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