Gameday – Quarterfinal Round #4 – FlyersPosted: 19/04/2012
As you undoubtedly know, the Penguins won last night 10-3. They’re now down 3 games to 1, but the series is coming back to Pittsburgh Friday night. I don’t feel the need to recap the game exhaustively, and even if I wanted to, I didn’t get the chance to record my thoughts last night, and I missed the second period from about 5 minutes left until the third period with about 5 minutes left. Anyway, I’m still going to deliver some thoughts.
How about Jordan Staal? After becoming the unwitting focal point of the Penguins’ “locker room troubles” when Alan Robinson tweeted that he was unhappy in Pittsburgh and wanted out, he responds with a huge hat trick, the first of which ended up being the game winner. I’ll say this, if Staal does leave, whether it be this offseason, next offseason, at the trade deadline next year, or after another several years, I certainly won’t blame him. He is a class act and a great leader. It’s obvious that he could be a number one or number two center on pretty much any team in the league, he put up a new career high in points despite missing 20 games this year, essentially entirely because he got to play top line minutes. Beyond that though is his leadership potential. Not only could he be a top line center, he could be a captain on pretty much any team in the league. The way that he responded to that criticism is just great. I would be really really sad to see him go, but I would likely always be a fan (unless he went to an Atlantic Division team, just being honest).
Geno getting on track. I’ve said it before, but this really is Evgeni Malkin’s team this year. Sid looks healthy and fit, but still, Malkin is primary target number one for opposing teams to stop. The Flyers have made that perfectly clear by constantly matching their top checking line against him all series. Malkin finally broke out a little bit yesterday getting 2 goals. Now that we’re going back home for a game, Malkin should get some more favorable matchups, especially if the Penguins continue to role with seven defensemen, rather than keying on Malkin coming out with his normal linemates he’ll get more some time with other matchups as well, which could get him away from Couturier, who looked surprisingly like a rookie for the first time last night. Let’s just sit back and watch.
Marc Andre Fleury is the root of all evil. Yes last night’s game could have hardly started worse for MAF as he got torched for another 3 power play goals, but then there really seemed to be a calm that settled over the Flower. The Pens played well defensively, they did a good job of insulating, and once the Pens adjusted to the way the refs were calling the game, the Flyers really weren’t a huge threat. But even then they got some chances and this time Fleury stood his ground. When people say that Fleury isn’t a “clutch goalie” I think they’re crazy. That’s what he is. It’s the fact that he often struggles when a situation isn’t “clutch” that can be irritating. Clutch goalie play down the stretch in this series might be the goalie who can limit the other team to three goals. For my money, I’m betting on Fleury.
Big Dog with a big game. Eric Tangradi got to play in his first postseason game of 2012 last night, and it was in his hometown of Philadelphia. I don’t know his TOI but he seemed to play well when he was out there. He got the primary assist on Staal’s game winner and really made it possible to get a goal out of the situation. If that had been Tyler Kennedy in front of the net hacking at the puck, he would have gotten knocked down and the Flyers likely would have broken out on a 3-on-2 or something like that. Instead it was the Big Dog, and he just stood his ground. I don’t know that he’ll ever be the top six guy that we’ve dreamt of, but he is learning to play strong in front of the net, and that’s never a bad thing. Again, I’m an admitted Tangradi apologist, but if you ask me, he’s a guy that should be playing, at least in this series. He backed up those claims last night.
How much do these coaches hate each other? The answer is at least, “a lot.” Obviously going back to Laviolette in the “gutless” game, Laviolette in the first game of this series yelling at the Penguins bench again, Bylsma letting his team goon it up in the third game, and even more with this game last night, these coaches might hate each other more than any of the players on the teams. Bylsma calling a timeout in the second period with his team up 8-3 was incredible and so asinine. Laviolette allowing Rinaldo to do what he did was just vicious. It’s amusing, you just hope that Disco will have it under control for the rest of the series.
Seven defensemen: and it worked. The Pens went with seven defensemen last night, including Brian Strait and Simon Despres. They both played admirably, and this was the perfect opportunity to get them some real, NHL playoff experience. They got to experience the tribulations of the first period, the ups and downs of playoff hockey, but then they were really able to settle in and soak up some minutes late in the game. This was of course a famous strategy that Bylsma employed in the 09 campaign. It seems to be working again. I hope the Pens will stick with it, but it also will be really hard to do so. Obviously Neal and Adams will be in the lineup tomorrow night, but then who comes out to make room for them? My estimation is that Vitale and Tangradi will sit, the Pens will continue with 7 d-men and Richard Park will continue to play, but only time will tell.
One game at a time. The Penguins had the perfect mentality for last night’s game. As per usual, nobody could have said it better than Sid himself,
It’s a terrible situation being down 3-0. But we all believe we can come back, and I think this is the time you lean on your fans the most.
The Pens as a team, and especially us as fans need to remember to continue to take this series, and however many games may be left for the Penguins this year, one game at a time. I know the temptation is there to say, well hey we delivered a much bigger blowout than anything the Flyers have done. But we’re still definitely the team that’s up against ropes. We’re still the team on the verge of elimination. We need to go three for three down the stretch. They just need to win one game. Don’t look past Friday night. Wherever you may be, whether it’s in Consol, on the lawn, at your house, at a bar, or a thousand miles away, just remember that we need to win one game.
Bottom Line. The Pens get to play at least one more time. We as fans got to see the Pens play “Penguins hockey” one more time this year. It was glorious. We as fans need to deliver the same love and support again on Friday. From there, who knows what will happen.