I am going to save all of the cliches for saying “Finished!” until tomorrow. In the meantime, here are some things I noticed in Game Four….
Trend Setters and Followers
One disturbing trend that has developed leading up to game four has been the ridiculous amount of penalties taken by both teams. Stupid penalties, typically the result of after-the-whistle scrums that break out whenever a ref raises his hand lets alone blows his whistle. The story of the first period of game four was just that, more dumb penalties by both teams. Both teams underperforming dramatically on special teams. Neither was able to capitalize on man-advantage opportunities, failing time and time again to punish their opponent for ongoing lapses in discipline. It occurred again in game four as the Flyers failed to capitalize on eight chances with the man-advantage. By contrast, while the Penguins did fail to convert on the powerplay, they had only five opportunities, one lasting for less than a minute. Nonetheless, both teams took bad penalties and neither punished the other for it. The best way to cause a team to back off of you physically is not to retaliate but to score a goal, to punish them where it truly hurts. A game is not won based on the penalties and hits made, it is won by the goals scored. Do you think Scott Hartnell would continue to take the liberties has if the Penguins scored on several of his knucklehead minors? Dumb question. Do you think any of the Flyers not named Carcillo, Hartnell, or Cote would think twice about chopping their stick at a Penguins player if the tuxedoed fowl could even look threatening when on the man-advantage?
The goal Crosby scored 3:19 into the second period did not appear to be the result of aintentional kicking motion. Crosby drove to the net with possession of the puck. It looked as though he got tripped up at which point he tried to get a shot off. What ensued was the puck pin-balling off of sticks, skates, and body parts, and finally, into the net. It is fair to say that no kicking motion was made. It almost appeared as though Crosby made his legs limp once on the ice. He did not want a repeat of the 2007 playoffs against the Senators. That is not to say it is a clean goal. The ref could have blown the whistle and ruled it a penalty for either club really. But that was the theme for the whole night. At anytime any ref could blow their whistle and call either team for any number of infractions. Both teams could have easily played over half the game on special teams. The goal by Tyler Kennedy proved to be even bigger. The Staal line, which had played so well in game one and two, were off in game three and needed to bounce back.
Another growing trend of this series is the extremely good penalty-killing of both teams. A lot of attention has been paid to the inability of both teams to put the puck in the net when on the man-advantage but give credit to the penalty-kill. The Penguins are a true fourth-line team and have forwards like Craig Adams that play almost as much on the PK as they do even-strength. The Flyers on the other-hand are a three-line team with a fourth-line of role-players. Sme of the players such as Powe see time on the PK but players like Mike Richards and Simon Gagne see plenty of time on the PK as well as in other situations.
If there has been a difference in the game it has been Marc-Andre Fleury – particularly on the penalty-kill.
In the third period, the Flyers took every chance they could to run Fleury.
Fleury continued to play better as the game continued to get closer to the horn. He was absolutely brilliant on at least three different occasions in a three-minute span of time midway through the third. At times he looked like great French Canadian goaltenders Martin Brodeur and Patrick Roy, playing post-to-post and displaying uncanny levels of athleticism and awareness.
Who’s to Blame?
John Stevens was appalled that the Crosby goal stood. Mostly one could surmise because his team lost. If they would have been able to convert just one of the numerous chances the Penguins provided to tie the game up, it would have been a non-issue. The Penguins went so far to position the Flyers to tie the game that they even had key penalty killers like Hal Gill and Mark Eaton take penalties.
Blaming anyone but your own team reeks of defeatism. How do you rally your troops around “The NHL is trying to make Sidney Crosby win no matter how hard we play.”? This mentality was reflected by captain Mike Richards as well. Which begs the question, is this the type of personality you want leading your team?
By contrast, when the Penguins lost the third game of the series, captain Sidney Crosby said to the media that he felt his team played the way they needed to but came out too slow in the first. To anyone who saw the game that was obvious but nonetheless, that was a leader essentially saying, “We didn’t do what we needed to do to win. Next time we will do what we need to win.” Dan Bylsma echoed similar statements to the media. The Penguins strayed from their game. They needed to be more aggressive more early in the game.
The next game the Penguins were more aggressive very early in the game. Almost to a fault. Still, they became more initiators of the physical contact, as they were in the first two games of the series, and it paid off in the end.
If John Stevens needs someone to blame for his team’s loss, he needs to look at their powerplay.
Are You Kidding?
Scott Hartnell has 23 penalty minutes in four games in this playoff series. Minus a ten-minute misconduct and a fight and it averages out to a penalty a game. Which is roughly his pace during the regular season.
Daniel Carcillo for whatever reason has none.
About the Author
Written by Ian Altenbaugh