In this edition of Around the Atlantic we will look at Game Two of the first round match between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Philadelphia Flyers. I will also tell you why Brooks Orpik is the most physical player in the NHL today.
The Penguins dispatched of the Flyers in a dominant fashion in game two. So much so that it may be fair to suggest the Flyers only need a fork in them to confirm them being done.
Good but Choppy
Every major statistical category the Penguins dominated in. Still, the Penguins seemed disorganized as they were constantly changing ahead of the play. The consequence was very choppy play. As the Flyers lured the Penguins into playing their style of game, the pace of the game slowed and smoothed. The Penguins however looked comfortable playing this style of game. A testament to the diverse and multi-talented group of players they have on their roster.
Another Kind of Choppy
The first period seemed to be riddled with a lot of lumber to limb chops. I suppose it is the grizzled lumberjack in most hockey players that makes them insist on wielding their stick like a hatchet and their opponent’s leg like lumber. This was a result of the refs not calling many plays. As soon as the whistles started getting blown, the crazed lumberjacks left the ice and were once again replaced with (sometimes crazed) hockey players.
Brooks Orpik is the Most Physical Player in the League
After his 14 hit performance in game two against the Flyers, there should be absolutely no doubt that Orpik is the most physical player in hockey today. His regular season total of 309 leads the league among defenseman is 85 more than second place Brent Seabrook. That is 3.91 hits-per-game compared to 2.74 that Seabrook dishes out every game. Seabrook also averaged 3 more minutes a game. Orpik is also a good shot blocker, tied for 21st in the league among defensemen with 152.
The Flyers are clearly running out of answers as the series goes on. A victory in game 3 would go a long way to give them a shot in the arm but it seems as though they may have already given up. What else are the Flyers to do? They are more or less 100% in the health department. They have three balanced scoring lines and a solid group of checking forwards. They also have eight defenseman who can play in the NHL. So what gives?
For one, I think part of the problem is the matchups. The Penguins match well against the Flyers – particularly the line of Jordan Staal. The 20-year-old Staal brother has the physical tools to match up against anyone physically and the skills to make smaller and swifter players look silly. His linemates, particularly Tyler Kennedy, create mismatches for larger, more lumbering defensemen like Andrew Alberts, Randy Jones, or Braydon Coburn. With the Staal line able to play 15 minutes of five-on-five, the burden for the top two lines to produce and play big minutes subsides.
Another major factor is the skating ability of the Penguins. While Mike Richards, Claude Giroux, Jeff Carter, and Simon Gagne are all brilliant skaters, the rest of the Flyers forwards leave much to be desired. Once renowned for his fleet skating ability, Dany Briere has looked like he has been slogging through swamp land when on the ice. Mike Knuble and Scotty Hartnell are not exactly speed demons either. The Penguins meanwhile, have to be among the strongest skating teams in the league. Players like Bill Guerin, Petr Sykora, and Ruslan Fedotenko will not win every foot race, but players like Sid Crosby, Max Talbot, Evgeni Malkin, Tyler Kennedy, and Pascal Dupuis all bring elite level speed to the ice.
Game 3 will go a long way in determining whether this series is just that, a series, or what it has appeared to be so far: a shellacking.
About the Author
Written by Ian Altenbaugh