Things haven’t exactly gone swimmingly well for the Philadelphia Flyers this postseason. Their strong finish to the regular season has been extinguished by their most hated rival. After three rollercoaster games, the Pittsburgh Penguins hold a 2-1 lead in the series ahead of game four. If Philly is to find a way back into this series before they head back to Pittsburgh, they have to find a way to beat themselves first.
There have been some eccentric highs this series. Travis Sanheim became the third flyer in as many games to record his first career playoff goal, while Nolan Patrick had one of his better performances. He may not have been able to find the net, but he did everything else right as one of the most versatile players competing. The youth and potential of this team is on full display, but with that comes inexperience and some mental errors.
Of the five goals conceded on Sunday evening, three of them came on the power play. The Flyers endured seven penalties on the evening which was just way too many against a team like Pittsburgh who are so efficient when they have the extra man advantage. Things started off quite impressive for the PK unit, but as attrition set in, the stiffness began to loosen.
“I don’t know if it’s frustration or you get caught not moving your feet and you’re reaching a little bit, that’s what happens you lose control of your stick.” Goaltender Brian Elliott explained after the game. “That’s when the penalties are called. It’s definitely not an excuse, we did it to ourselves. We have to make it a focus, we can’t be doing that.”
This isn’t the first time this series that avoidable errors have cost the Orange and Black dearly.
“It happened in game one, happened in game three.” Jake Voracek said, frustratedly. “Just gotta make sure we stick with what we do out there. They are going to have momentum. They are too good of a team not to create chances, not to create momentum. We didn’t do a good job of handling that today.”
After an explosive opening ten minutes, the Flyers offense also started to lose steam. If opportunities go uncapitalized and you then give a team as disciplined (playing style excluded, ahem) as the Penguins, then it’s only going to end badly. Two rapid-fire goals just five seconds apart certainly appeared to elevate those frustrations, with five of their seven penalties coming after Brian Dumoulin’s goal that sent the Pens up by four.
The Flyers simply have to look to their leaders. They came out swinging in game two and were able to make an authoritative statement, but the same errors are plaguing a team with arguably the perfect formula to go toe-to-toe with Pittsburgh and take it to seven. Claude Giroux, who led the Flyers in shots, Sean Couturier, who is averaging 24:35 minutes per game, and the electrifying Wayne Simmonds will all be called upon in game four. Simmonds especially will be the heart and soul of offense on this team in the games to come and that’s something Dave Hakstol was quick to mention.
“Well Simmer has been playing pretty good hockey and I liked their first 20 minutes and Fil’s line, and now you get into the number of power plays, penalties, back and fourth with Simmer being part of that second unit and not killing penalties along with everyone else, you get certain guys that are out there on the kill spending all their energy, and the guys sitting on the bench not being able to carry the momentum that they had in the first period.” The Flyers Head Coach explained. “A lot of guys played really well in the first period and I include him in that. But he’s one of our leaders, he’s a guy that were going to look to. He has to be a guy that helps us real quickly get over the disappointment tonight and come back and play a complete game in game number 4.”
This is still a very winnable series, but this is an opportunity the Flyers HAVE to capitalize on. Finding that balance of pace and complacency, aggression and discipline will be key for a young team playing with all the heart in the world, but are just unable to tie it all together just yet.
Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports