The Pittsburgh Penguins did almost everything right in game one.
They skated fast. They hit hard. They charged the Flyers net and they protected their own. They blocked shots, lifted sticks and broke up plays.
Nobody, possibly not even the Pittsburgh Penguins themselves, assumed that the team would be able to turn in such a dominant performance in the first game of the series.
Every single analyst, commentator and blogger predicted that this would be a tight, evenly-matched, difficult series for both teams.
And those predictions will likely turn out to be correct.
Just because game one was almost entirely controlled by the Penguins doesn’t mean the rest of the series will play out that way.
This will likely still be a tight, evenly-matched, difficult series for both teams.
The Flyers came out flat in game one. The Penguins came out with one of their most inspired performances in recent memory. People can blame the referees or Gary Bettman or anyone else if they want, but the Penguins simply outworked the Flyers on Wednesday.
But can that continue?
In in the first game of the series the Penguins showed that they can find another level of competition. They showed that they can turn it up a notch. The question now changes to whether or not they can keep it there.
The Pittsburgh Penguins have never been the most consistent NHL team. They have blown third period leads with minutes to go and, subsequently, they have also frequently snatched victory from the jaws of defeat as the clock ticked down. Any Penguins fan knows that no lead is safe with this team on the ice.
Can the Pittsburgh Penguins maintain the same level of work ethic that they displayed in game one? The style they played was fast skating and hard hitting. This is an incredibly difficult way to play hockey. While extremely successful, it’s also very physically demanding.
The line of Jordan Staal, Tyler Kennedy and Matt Cooke definitely set the bar high on Wednesday night. They were certainly the most physical unit on the ice and they seemed to hit any Flyer that touched the puck. Their play, along with a hit Chris Kunitz laid on Kimmo Timonen in the first few seconds of the contest, set the tone for the night.
The Philadelphia Flyers will no doubt enter game two with a different attitude. They will have to play differently and they likely will. Coach John Stevens was clearly unhappy with the number of unnecessary penalties the Flyers players took in game one. While the Penguins were not able to capitalize on many of their power play opportunities, having to play a large portion of the game shorthanded clearly tired the Flyers out.
“We were taking penalties away from the puck, away from the scoring angles. And when you do that, it just tires you out. You’re blocking shots, pucks are hitting you, it tires you out,” Flyers captain Mike Richards told the Philadelphia Daily News.
“It’s a lot harder playing defense than it is playing offense.”
The Flyers will try to avoid heading to the box as often tonight. They will likely succeed. If the scoreboard didn’t indicate that the Flyers need to play a more disciplined game, the suspension of forward Dan Carcillo and the $10,000 John Stevens was mandated to give to the NHL likely will.
Tonight’s game will likely be a different animal. The Flyers will play more disciplined. They will take less penalties. They will attempt to match the tempo and physicality that the Penguins displayed in game one.
The Penguins will have to play exactly the same style as they did in game one, which will be a challenge in itself. If the Flyers manage to meet their level of hard work, the Penguins will once again have to reach down and find another level to maintain the advantage they earned in game one.
A more effective power play would likely help as well.
Game two is tonight at 7:00 from Mellon Arena.