Your finger food was in the crockpot, your beer was cold and the TV was turned up to 100. The stage was set for a great night… but then the puck dropped and your whole world crumbled around you. You started eating your carefully prepared snacks out of boredom and depression rather than excitement. Your beer turned from refreshing to a vice to block out the pain of each goal scored. The TV volume plummeted and suddenly you were switching back and forth between channels to see if there was any real playoff hockey being played elsewhere. And there was, which made everything even worse.
How not to start a playoff series against back-to-back Stanley Cup Champions – a Philadelphia Flyers production. A 7-0 beating at the hands of the Penguins and a hat trick from public enemy No. 1, Sidney Crosby. It’d be hard to draw up a more nightmarish situation.
But fear not, City of Brotherly Love! Even though it feels like we just lost the whole series, that’s simply not the case. Pittsburgh could’ve scored 300 goals and the series record would still only be 1-0. The Flyers have a few tricks up their sleeve and a slow start to the series shouldn’t take away from the talent that we know they have.
Plus… Broad Street would implode if the Penguins swept the series and held a 8-0 record against the Flyers on the season. So in the hopes of avoiding that catastrophe, here’s my 7 bold(ish) predictions (is anything really bold after a 7-0 loss?) for the remainder of the Battle of Pennsylvania.
1. Mrazek takes over in game 3 (and plays well)
It’s no secret Brian Elliott played poorly in Game 1 of the series. He let in 5 goals on 19 shots and was pulled just before the halfway mark of the game. Not every goal could be solely placed on him. The Penguins were batting pucks out of the air like it was an arcade game and the Flyers defense as a whole had one of their worst games of the year.
But, in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, sometimes a team needs their goalie to stand on his head and keep them in it. Elliott couldn’t do that Wednesday night and Petr Mrazek played well enough in relief. Coming in down 5-0 with the defending Stanley Cup Champions completely in their groove and only allowing 2 goals shouldn’t be underestimated. Another abysmal showing from Elliott in Game 2 will force Hakstol to start Mrazek out of desperation. The decision will pay off and Flyers fans will see the Mrazek that they fell in love with when he first took the ice for the Orange & Black earlier this year.
2. Konecny will reclaim his spot on the 1st line
Although I don’t disagree with Hakstol’s decision swap Raffl and Konecny in hopes of sparking some more balanced offense, I believe that the 1st lines success was a huge driving force behind the Flyers playoff push. They should be given the opportunity to carry this team through the first round. Travis Konecny will take his rightful place opposite Giroux on Couturier’s wing and they’ll play so well Hakstol won’t have a choice but to keep him there.
3. Laughton has a hat trick
Scott Laughton has played great this season and hasn’t gotten the credit he’s deserved while buried on the 4th line. He’s constantly playing with a different set of linemates and has continued to drive possession and excel defensively against the league’s elite when matched up with them. The 4th line was arguably the Flyers best unit Wednesday night and the flood gates will open for Laughton when the hockey gods decide to reward him for his hard work.
4. Crosby is goalless the rest of the series
Call this wishful thinking… because that’s exactly what it is. Crosby was a force to be reckoned with in Game 1 and has always been a thorn in the Flyers side. Hakstol and the gang need to fight some way to shut him down if they want to have any chance of winning this series. Slim to no chance he doesn’t score again this series? Yes. Will I endlessly quote this article and scream it to the heavens if I’m right? Absolutely.
5. The Flyers lose a defenseman to injury
The Penguins play fast and hard. They bang bodies and drive lanes with no fear of being mowed down. They combine a level of grit and talent that is almost impossible to plan for. The Flyers defense is going to have to work their tail off if they plan on slowly this hungry Pittsburgh team down. That hard work paired with the aggravation of a 7-0 lose at the hands of their arch-rivals will lead to an injury that takes a key Flyers defenseman out of commission for the remainder of the series.
6. Letang fights someone (and loses)
The Flyers have a healthy amount of aggravators on their roster. Travis Konecny, Radko Gudas, Wayne Simmonds, Brandon Manning, all of those guys love to chirp and try to knock opposing players off their game a bit. In Game 1, Kris Letang was far from immune from the Broad Street Bullies antics and he didn’t fair well under the pressure. Letang was noticeably aggravated throughout the game and that anger will boil over into a 5 minute major for fighting at some point in the series. A bout that he’ll lose, miserably.
7. The Flyers will win the series in 7 games
A slow start was to be expected against a team of Pittsburgh’s caliber. The Flyers aren’t perennial playoff contenders at this point in time and earning the 3rd spot in the Metro has already exceeded many fans’ expectations. To defeat the Penguins in a 7 game series, Philadelphia will need to really look back at their previous meetings with them. The Flyers roster is chock full of talent and a wide range of skill sets. Deploying those skill sets in the most effective manner will lead the Orange & Black to their first playoff series win since the 2011-12 season.
7 predictions – 0 doubt. Leave the past in the past and #EarnTomorrow.
Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports