Gameday – Quarterfinals Round #5 – FlyersPosted: 21/04/2012
Well again, unfortunately neither Mike nor I actually got to see a whole lot of the game. We were both playing a show last night so that kind of put a damper on it. The crucial thing is that we got to see right from when TK took his penalty in the 3rd, which by all accounts was the key. As you more than likely know, the Penguins pulled it out 3-2, with an absolutely amazing third period from MAF. Again, in the absence of in-game thoughts to go off of, I’m just gonna recap this with some general impressions.
Get on my level. Do you believe in Marc Andre Fleury now? On that third period power play for the Flyers, they had seven shots. SEVEN. Maybe one of which was an easy save. If you don’t believe that Fleury IS clutch after last night, then you’re probably a communist. I first brought this up with about two weeks left in the regular season. Fleury just wasn’t seeing as well. I said it was precarious because when this has happened before the key has been a combination of extra rest and just playing through it. Luckily with Johnson’s return Fleury did get a bit of rest but he hadn’t “played through” by the start of the playoffs. It showed. But now he’s only allowed two goals in the last five periods of play, and they both came on the power play, which the Flyers are really good at. That doesn’t mean that he had to do it all by himself. The defense has played way better in the last two games. I can’t even think of how many perfectly timed stick lifts the Pens D had in those last 10-12 minutes, but it was a lot.
The elegance of 7. The Penguins went with seven defensemen again last night. In fairness, the rookies, Strait and Despres, didn’t play fifteen minutes combined. Further, Strait was the only one to play on the penalty kill and logged a whopping 16 seconds. Nonetheless, this is working. I don’t know why 7 d-men works in the playoffs, but it just does. I mean Despres is really dangerous from the point on the Power Play and Strait just seems to be a solid defenseman. I think it’s safe to say that this won’t be getting changed for game 6.
Speaking of defense. How good is Matt Niskanen? Just epic last night. Every time he plays he finds a new way to impress. Just from the limited amount of time I saw last night it looked like he played the last 10 minutes. At the very least he was responsible for nearly every crucial clear in that time frame, of which there were many. I’ll say this, he’s not an “invisible defenseman” ala Rob Scuderi, but he’s the type of guy that you need on the blue line. Looking at his box score doesn’t tell the whole story either. He didn’t play at all on the penalty kill and he trailed 5 other Pens skaters in ice time, but every time he was on the ice you knew it, and that’s a huge compliment.
Come on NHL. The officiating was pretty bad. I mean there is no doubt in my mind that the refs were helping the Flyers last night. Letting inexcusable and obvious trips go for the Flyers while looking for every ticky-tack call they could make against the Pens. I don’t like to complain about officiating, even in private and when they really deserve it, but last night was just inexcusable. Yes, it’s the playoffs, yes the refs are going to let the teams play through a lot of calls, but that’s not what happened last night, these refs straight up made calls against one team and didn’t make them against the other team.
As if there hasn’t been enough talk about the Penguin’s penalty kill. How smart was Bylsma to put Crosby out there to take (and win) those faceoffs in the defensive zone, on the PK, when it seemed like the Flyers were bound to score on the PP. To be really candid, that’s something that Bylsma wasn’t doing at the start of this series, he wasn’t necessarily managing the game. He was sort of just sitting back and trusting in his system. It didn’t work. Now in the last two games you’ve really seen the thinking and the calculated coolness that have made Disco such a celebrity in Pittsburgh.
Classy. Philadelphia really started to show its true colors last night. Claude Giroux, the greatest and saintliest hockey player of all time according to NBC, was reportedly throwing obscenities at Penguins FANS last night, and after the final whistle he decided to get super emo and break his stick over the goal cage. I also have it on good authority that Scott Hartnell told a friend of mine from high school, “Fuck You” during warm-ups. This sounds a lot more like the Philly of 2009, I’m glad to have them back.
Bottom line. We go back to Philly for game 6, the puck drops at 12 PM tomorrow so don’t drink too much tonight. Whatever you’ve been doing, keep on doing it. We’re still down in the series and it’s still win or go home. The Penguins need to win one game, that’s all you can be thinking about. The city came alive to help Consol be heard last night, let’s see if we can stretch it all the way to the other side of the state tomorrow.