Here there be Flyers. My observations and commentaries on Game Four lay within.
This is where it all comes down to effort, to tenacity, to energy. The Flyers need to come out quick and they need to control the game from the outset. Anything less and it'll be over quick.
And they do just that.
Coach Stevens has juggled the lines a bit and thus far his changes have worked. The Flyers have come out banging and have been aggressive on the puck. Far more than they have in any game thus far. Why, oh why they didn't come out like this is Game One?
From the outset they have dominated. They have finally gained the zone and developed offensive presence, they have been beating the Penguins to pucks, they have been defensively tight, they have gotten the benefit of some bounces, and they have gotten the benefit of the power play opportunities.
For the first time this series, the Flyers have done the one thing I said they needed to do: they scored first. Nothing is worse than starting every game behind the eight ball and having to fight back to a level playing field. Now they've built a lead of great command at 3-0.
The danger in such a lead, especially against Pittsburgh, is taking the foot off the gas and trying to out defend them for the remaining two periods. It can flat out be stated right now that if Philadelphia does try this path, Pittsburgh will destroy them in short order.
Keep attacking, keep hitting everything that moves, keep firing pucks on the net, and keep Mike Knuble and his butt right in Fleury's face. Another key I pointed out was the need to obscure Fleury's view. He's had a cakewalk in watching those pucks into his glove from Game One until now. With the bodies in front, it has paid off in goals, especially the third goal where he fought to see around Knuble and ended up just out of position to prevent the rebound goal by Carter.
Other than that, the only real point to be made for the Flyers: stop missing the net. Carter has fired high over the net, Richards missed the net completely on a breakaway...get those shots down and on target. Fleury might make that first save but keep driving in for rebounds.
Pittsburgh is a potent enough team to turn this around. No one, be they coaches, owners, players or fans should assume that this one is over.
The battle continues and the Flyers continue to come out on the top of the collisions and the puck movement.
Pittsburgh looked better in this period but were still held off the board by some first rate team defense and solid netminding from Biron. On the other side Fleury does not look shaken in the least and made some huge saves in that period to keep the game as close as it is.
No scoring was to be found but the physical play has continued and for the most part, it has been a clean affair. A few of the nastier shots here and there but nothing that isn't expected from these hated rivals in a must win game. Even the nastiness, in large part, has been tame.
I'm still impressed with Malkin. The guy is top notch in moving that puck and he's done his best to try and set things up. And he gets pounded every time he touches the disc but keeps coming back for more without whining and crying about it. All the age-old lamenting about the pansy Russians and here we have Malkin and Ovechkin who play it like horses. Kudos to Malkin. But I'm glad he still scoreless. Sorry.
The Flyers keep doing one other thing right that I mentioned was a necessary here: they are getting the puck off the wall and getting the better shots from the slot area and from the point. They're not scoring on all of them but their chances have been much improved. Lupul also made the right decision with the puck late in the period when he fired the puck on net instead of looking for the perfect setup. Drive it to the net and get the boys to dig for trash. Perfect.
One more period. Now is not the time to slip up. Keep playing team defense, keep turning the puck up ice with crisp and confident passes, and keep powering to the net. That keeps up and this series goes to 3-1 and a trip back to Pittsburgh.
The Orange & Black seemed to relax just a bit in the third and it nearly bit them. They no longer attacked the Pens zone with the ferocity of the first, or even the tempered ferocity of the second.
Jordan Staal showed a lot of heart playing in this game after saying goodbye to his grandfather yesterday afternoon up in Ontario. Two goals for him in this one and he very easily could have tied it all by himself.
His first goal was some good work off the boards and he snuck in from behind the goal line to whack at a loose puck beside the net. Once again, Marty Biron pulled away from the post too soon and left enough of a gap for Staal's play to go in.
The second goal was pure quickness. Taking a pass from the corner right into the wheelhouse, Staal buried it behind Biron without even stopping to take a breath. Why no one bothered to put some meat next to him I don't know but he stood all alone in the high slot just waiting.
The last 10 minutes of the period was a hold on for dear life situation. Pittsburgh put on some solid pressure and getting that extra man for the last minute and a half could have been deadly. But the Flyers were able to pressure them outside the offensive zone and Lupul put in the goal that allowed the team to breathe a sigh of relief.
It got a little feisty in the last batch of seconds. Hatcher exchanged some hardcore blows with Malone after Upshall buried some poor Penguin soul. Class move by Upshall, however, in the middle of the fracas that ensued, to spend his time checking on the Penguin who was down and making sure he was okay. Always good to see guys do that. Richards and Crosby did a little slap and tickle event out toward center to close things out.
Overall, Richards and Carter were major highlights. Lupul was quality support tonight and even Briere showed up. He still was not the key to the offense but he did get a goal and actually was visible in play. Prospal was still largely missing but on a few occasions he seemed to be working harder than he has since the Capitals series. Biron made a couple very key saves and finally outplayed Fleury...not that Fleury was bad or that he could be blamed for this loss.
Major point of interest and proof of the Flyers defensive improvement: Crosby, no points, -1. Malkin, no points, -1. Hossa, no points, -1. Could that be a Biron Hat Trick?
The Flyers got the best of the Pens in this one, though they opened the door for the Penguins to get back into it into the third. They found enough to keep them at bay and now they have to see if they can muster the same drive from period one and pack it with them to go to Pittsburgh and Game Five on Sunday.
Even better with news coming that Braydon Coburn AND Kimmo Timonen could BOTH be in the lineup for Game 5.