Once again I took notes through the game and provide my opinions on what I saw here.
Back to Philadelphia we go and the Flyers are down 2 games to 0. It's not how they wanted to be coming home and as this period has gone on, that energizing crowd has been fairly tame. I was expecting to be hearing the roof coming off regularly, and to be fair, the Pens getting the start they did doesn't help. But c'mon Philly fans....let's hear some noise.
The Flyers came out strong. They were controlling some play and getting good support down low. Both teams were tossing around the weight but the officiating in period one was atrocious. Calls both ways were pathetically awful and for a while neither team was sure just what they could do on the ice. The hooking call on Briere was weak, to put it mildly, and the follow up hook to Pittsburgh's Marian Hossa was also mind-numblingly bad. The hook call on Hatcher was more legitimate than those other two, and it was still an awful call.
Philadelphia failed miserably on the power play. You cannot have THREE power plays and register zero shots.
And it would seem that Lady Luck is in Pittsburgh's back pocket for this series, as seen by Whitney's goal....a failed cross ice pass to Crosby that hit Jason Smith in the leg and barely squeaked over the line as Biron was pushing away from the post to cover the pass. It was a huge "you gotta be kidding me" moment.
They followed that one up with a much better goal Pittsburgh-wise, anyway. Marian Hossa dipsy-doos through the neutral zone, Jeff Carter shows little effort to defend the play by simply waving his stick at Hossa, Hossa slips past him a couple strides and fires a quick wrister through the defenseman's legs and into the far side of the net. Biron didn't have a clue the shot was coming and was unprepared but Carter has to show some grit and step up into Hossa. Two other defensemen are behind you. Stop the attack from entering the zone. At least get enough of Hossa to knock him off the puck.
The Flyers eventually get a response in the form of R.J. Umberger, who snuck in behind the Pens into the high slot and tapped a shot by Fleury to make it 2-1.
On the whole, the Flyers have looked much better. They've not given up and they're putting more pressure down low. They nail Malkin at every opportunity and they shove Crosby around, but for whatever reason they let Hossa skate wherever he wants. They need to start pounding him.
Back after the second.
The second period was a balanced affair and we saw just one penalty in the whole frame...to Philadelphia. Upshall sticking out the leg to take down Malkin. Playing with fire there boys.
On the whole, though, it was a rather dull period. Hatcher bumbled another pass (second time tonight) and this time it turned into a 3-on-1 chance for Pittsburgh, which Randy Jones was able to sprawl out and defend. Richards had a good break for Philadelphia but was equally well defended by Gonchar, who dove and knocked the puck off his stick before he could get a shot.
What is hurting Philadelphia is the fact that they are generating next to nothing on the shot chart. 3 shots in the second period. That is NOT going to win you a hockey game when you absolutely need a win.
Granted, Pittsburgh is not pressing. They don't need to. They are settling back and tightening up the defensive end. Philadelphia has had some good cycling down low but have failed to pull anything off the wall and into the lane.
Nice shot of Braydon Coburn in the press box. That left eye looked like hamburger.
Coming out for this third period it is going to be time for Philadelphia to begin playing some desperation hockey. They need to start playing this game like the whole of the series depends on it because, quite frankly, it does. They need to come flying, nail everything that moves, and put every puck they get on net and follow it up.
Right now they are holding on by the skin of their teeth. They need to start gnashing.
See you after period three.
Those orange t-shirts handed out at the Wachovia Center tonight read "Why Not Us." If you watched any of this game tonight, you should know why not.
Period three was played by a Flyer team that looked like it was already beaten. They had no jump, no killer attack, no determined body-bruising. They just were.
How many times tonight, and in the third especially, were two Flyer players going to look at each other to try to determine which of them was going to go after a loose puck? They looked perpetually confused and uncoordinated. How many Flyer passes or clearing attempt ended up on Penguin sticks? Way to many, and certainly too many if you're looking to make a series out of this.
The Flyers looked lethargic, at best.
Going up 3-1 was once again the fault of one Steve Downie and a poor decision with the puck. I know what he was trying to do. In some ways it wasn't a bad idea, but what he should have done instead of trying a cross ice feed would have been to put the puck down into the corner and let the streaking forward fight for it low. As it was, the pass was picked off and off Pittsburgh goes the other way. It turned into a giant keystone cops scene. The Flyer defenseman, Hatcher, turns around to skate back toward his zone. The Penguin forward, Malkin, loses the puck. If the Flyer had turned around he could have sticked the puck away but instead, he turns the wrong way and he turns to late. Malkin regains control, drives it deep. Next thing you know, goal.
Hossa added an empty netter but by that point the Flyers were skating with heads and hearts down.
The chances of the Flyers making this a series now are near impossible. Pittsburgh has been the far superior team and they have had the benefit of all the lucky bounces. Skill and luck, the two things every winner needs, and they have both. I'd still like to see them show up and play Flyer hockey for at least one game. We've not seen it yet, sadly, and every viewer would benefit from seeing it show up in Game Four.
Hats off to Pittsburgh for a well balanced and patient game.