Once again, and for the final time with this series, my period-by-period take on this Eastern Conference Finals Matchup.
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Philadelphia, for wanting to keep this series going, has begun by doing everything absolutely....wrong.
Giveaways in the first two games of this series were killers for the Flyers. Thus far they have turned the puck over on a consistent basis and even their shots are failing, either because they are whiffing on them or because a Penguin is getting a stick on it. They have to tighten up and get these turnovers out of the game.
Mike Knuble takes the first penalty of the game and it comes off of a poor breakout which was turned over. And, as fate would have it, it takes almost no time for Pittsburgh to own the game. A shot from the point directed in by Malone and Pittsburgh is up 1-0. Despite the review there is no question the goal was valid. No kicking motion was evident and directing the puck is not invalid. But there you have it....another big mistake with the puck by Philadelphia and it bites them in the posterior.
Not how Philly wanted to start this game. Playing catch-up with Pittsburgh has not been their strong suit.
Another giveaway in the defensive zone by Richards nearly burns them. Great puck movement by Pittsburgh has Flyers spinning around but Biron makes the save.
Another giveaway in the defensive zone by Parent, who whiffed on the pass, and Timonen is able to break up the play.
The tuck in by Malkin was unfortunate. Malone pinning Biron's arm against the wall forced Biron to drop his stick in order to get back to the net. It should have been blown by the official as a penalty. It wasn't and that just has to be lived with. The non-call does not excuse Biron's lazy attempt to get from the right side of the net back over to the left, where Malkin was sliding the puck over the goal line. A poor goal for Biron to allow.
Going down 2-0 is a tremendous mountain to climb for the Flyers. They need to respond with a highly motivated and tough attack.
Stupid. Stupid. Stupid. That is the only way to describe Hartnell's trip of Fleury behind the Penguin net. A 3rd goal here on the power play could be the Flyer Killer. Stevens needs to pull Hartnell aside and tell him to calm the hell down and not take any more stupid penalties. They cannot afford to be killing penalties all night and still hope to get into this game.
Luckily for Philadelphia, and for Hartnell, the Pens could not score. But Philadelphia would get their own power play opportunity in the final 2 minutes of the period. A goal here would be huge for them, cutting the Penguins lead to just 1 goal.
No shots? None? Awful power play from Philadelphia.
Overall, Pittsburgh looks like they want to win. They are skating smoothly and making great decisions with the puck. Philadelphia, not so much. Bad passes, poor shots, and they look a little hesitant on a lot of plays. They need to go back into the locker room, talk about what worked for them in Game Four, and bring that game back out onto the ice. Right now they are being beaten to every loose puck by Pittsburgh and they have to buckle down and start battling like this is the end of their season.
Because as of right now, it is.
To start this period the Flyers are looking much more lively. A couple good plays and then Fleury makes the key save of the game. If Pittsburgh wins this game, look back to this pivotal moment.
Briere makes a good shoot to the net which Fleury gets his toe on. Then he gets his leg on the rebound by Hartnell. At this point it is 2-0 Pittsburgh. Yielding a goal to make it 2-1 gives the Flyers life and changes the outlook of the game. He plays it tough and keeps Philly off the board.
Even when the mess up, Pittsburgh makes up for it. A bad clear by the Penguins leads to Mike Richards getting the puck and turning it around into the Penguins zone. The problem is, he shows no sense of urgency and Crosby steals the puck off his stick. Up the other way it goes, Crosby dishes a pass from the corner and Hossa buries it. Exceptional two-way play from Crosby and pathetic effort on behalf of Richards and the Flyers. When you get that puck on a turnover you have to turn and burn, not turn and coast.
Philadelphia gets a power play and that lasts for a whole 6 seconds. Timonen heads for the box after a strong play to the net by Staal on the faceoff. It was a deflating call as Philly needed to get this man advantage and make a run at getting on the board.
Orpik gets away with one on Briere. Briere dumps the puck into the zone and Orpik beans him in the melon. Alright, fine and dandy. It may have been a tad high but those get let go all the time. The problem is the subsequent hit to the head. That should have blown as interference. Briere was not in possession of the puck nor was he anywhere near the puck. Bad non-call. (The same exact play WAS called in the Detroit/Dallas game yesterday, as it should have been.)
Bad trip by Carter. Will this power play put the game well out of reach? Uh, yeah. Because in the time it took me to write that question, Pittsburgh scores. At this point it would take a miracle for Philadelphia to surmount this Penguin lead.
Upshall putting in that breakaway goal would have helped. Good hustle back by the Pens D.
5-0. After another turnover deep in the defensive zone, no one from the Flyers picks up Staal. The Penguins have their foot on the Flyers' throat.
It would seem that the Flyers get on the board, but the ref waves it off. A very very quick review upholds the call and it ends at 5-0. The reviews being shown on television don't show me anything that would qualify the goal being disallowed. I'd very much like to hear a explanation for the ruling on that decision. (Just announced at start of third....ruling by the ref was that Thoresen "prevented Fleury from making the save, thus no goal." A questionable call on the ice, and not reviewable. Continued replays still don't make a strong case for that call, but it is what it is.)
Well, the third is prepped for start. Will the game get even worse for Philadelphia or will they be able to put in a couple goals to make history write that they actually showed up?
There really just isn't much to say about the third period. Pittsburgh never really gave up the intensity and they continued to put pressure on Biron and the Flyers. They made it 6-0, they hit a post or it would be 7-0. They continued to out hustle the Flyers.
Based on body language, you could see the defeat on the Flyers right from the drop of the puck to start this period off. The only one who seemed to be interested in erasing the 0 on their side of the scoreboard was Jeff Carter. Late in the period he received a great cross-ice pass and fired a hard shot on goal. Fleury stretched across and made a spectacular save. He has been there in a big was for Pittsburgh.
A lot of credit has to go to Pittsburgh. They played this series beautifully. They played with enough offense to dominate, enough defense to stifle, got exceptional goaltending, and they used as much physicality as they needed to without crossing over into an area that would give advantage to Philadelphia.
The Flyers, on the other hand, were behind the 8 ball with the loss of Timonen before the season started, and then the loss of Coburn. Biron, who had stolen them games in the previous 2 series', just couldn't pull it out for them this round. Too many mistakes doomed them early and often. In this one, the big guys didn't play big. It's hard to end your season with a loss. It's harder still when you get absolutely destroyed, and skunked in the process.
In the end, Flyer fans and the team as a whole have no reason to hang their heads. They lost the Conference Finals to a team that was clearly playing their best and most consistent hockey of the season. From Dead Last to Eastern Conference Runner-Up, this 2007-2008 Philadelphia Flyers team has much to be proud of.
My hat's off to them.
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