Wow what a blow before the series starts. Losing Timonen is devastating blow on the eve of the big matchup. With all the fire power the Pens have, he was going to have to play 25 to 30 minutes to counteract their attack. Now Jason Smith, is going to have to play more meaningful minutes. I hope his ailments that have slowed him since January are healed. He was a force early in the season, and really hurting late. Also here is to hoping that the week of rest was good for Hatcher's bad leg. This is the time where John Stevens need to be a coach. He needs to use guys in different roles and not be afraid to change things if they go bad. If Modry is the construction cone he was in the Washington series, he needs to be quickly pulled and insert Parent in the next game. Parent is going to be a top 4 defenseman next season, and let's face it, next season is only a handful of games away. I feel that Parent's mobility is a plus over Modry. In the game, if the Pens are torching Modry, Stevens must be willing to move Kapenen back to defense. In the last run to the ECF, Kapenen played big minutes in the playoffs as a defenseman under Hitchcock. Keep an eye for this tonight. With the loss of Timonen, I would not dress Cote even more now. Thoresen can play much bigger minutes over Cote and this series is not going to be won or lost based on a heavyweight fight between Laroche and Cote.
The Flyers win if, they control the puck and play the team defensive system that has been visible since the last few weeks of the regular season. Pittsburgh is going to score goals, the Flyers must be willing to play defense first and score off the counter attack to frustrate the young Pens. If the Flyers D can standup and get support from the forwards, then Biron will be positioned to be the difference again. Also the Flyers must treat the Pens star players physically and still avoid penalties. Get Upshall to torment and draw retaliation penalties.
The Pens will win if, they make the Flyers chase them around the rink and take obstruction penalties. When at even strength if the Pens can make the Flyers D back into the zone, their skill will generate scoring attempts and goals. This will force the Flyers to open things up and spread their forwards away from the defensemen, creating even more odd man rush attempts.
Pittsburgh simply outplayed Philly tonight. Malkin was a beast in this game. He took big hits, gave them out, dazzled with stickhandling and scored to pretty goals. No bounces or crazy deflections, he just hit precise locations with hard shots.
The only questionable call in the entire game was the high stick by Coburn on Hossa. I think the proximity to the net shielded the center ice ref and the zone ref was shielded by other players. No doubt it was a high stick though. So with as many body checks in this game as there was, you have to give the refs an 'A' for this one.
Big hit in this game on Umberger after his breakaway in the first period. Just as he shot the puck, Orpik blew him up with a nice clean hit. I love clean shoulder to shoulder checks like this one. Richards threw several nice clean hits, one on Malkin and then one on Gonchar. You have to give these two credit for creating the 4th goal as a result of these two bone jarring hits.
Neither team played well in the first period. Both teams had large gaps between forwards and defense. The entire game turned in 3 seconds as the puck was turned over with 10 seconds left in the 1st period. The quick cross ice pass sent Malkin in with the game winner. I felt if the Flyers got out of that period 2-2, they would have been in good shape. However, after the goal, the Pens clamped down and really elevated their game and the Flyers did not match the intensity.
It will be interesting to see if there are any lineup changes for Sunday night. I think that Modry looked bad. I would have much rather saw Parent out there. I would work my pairings as the following.
Coburn and Kuukonen
Hatcher and Parent
Jones and Smith
And I would work Kapenen in on shifts with Kuukonen and Jones to change things up and limit the minutes of Hatcher and Smith. These two are much more effective in their current injured states in fewer minutes.
Anyway good first game and there is some nasty stuff brewing. Go Flyers - win game 2 and achieve the split.