If you didn’t know better, you’d think the Philadelphia Flyers were the former Stanley Cup champions rather than the young team with minimal playoff success, because they have the Pittsburgh Penguins rattled. Philadelphia dominated the Penguins for the third straight game and won game three 8-4, they now have a 3-0 series lead.
The Flyers came into this series needing rookie players like Sean Couturier, Braydon Schenn, and Matt Read to play like veterans. The Flyers are extremely young and aside from a few veterans like Daniel Briere and Kimmo Timonen, they don’t have much playoff experience. The same cannot be said for Pittsburgh.
It was three short years ago that Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Jordan Staal, Kris Letang and the rest of the Penguins won the Stanley Cup. However, after the first three games of this series, it’s the Penguins that are playing like rookies.
Pittsburgh’s defensive play has been a comedy of errors. It started in game one when Jordan Staal failed to pick up Jakub Voracek as he scored the overtime winner. The miscues and brutal goaltending continued in both game two and game three as the Penguins have given up a combined 16 goals in two games.
While the Penguins defensive play has been downright embarassing, it’s no match for the complete lack of discipline that they’ve shown. As much as the Flyers carry a reputation for being a tough team, it’s not well founded. A quick glance at their lineup shows there isn’t much to be scared of.
Giroux, Couturier, Schenn, Briere, Voracek, Jagr, Talbot, Read, Kubina, Timonen. These aren’t names that strike fear into anyone. However, the Penguins have decided to puff their chest and tried to out-tough Philly rather than out-playing them. All they have to show for their efforts is a 3-0 series hole. Funny enough, even Pittsburgh’s captain Sidney Crosby has ditched his world class skill to focus being undisciplined. When he wasn’t mouthing off or sticking Ilya Bryzgalov, he was picking fights with Claude Giroux.
Pens fans shouldn’t mind Crosby mixing it up and being involved physically, but this is not his game. Instead of playing the way he’s supposed to, he’s playing the way the Flyers want him to.
On Sunday, the Penguins had 89 penalty minutes and 6 misconducts. Perhaps if they were more concerned with defensive zone coverage and moving their feet they would be playing up to their potential. As it stands, Pittsburgh is putting forth one of the most pathetic playoff performances in recent memory. The Penguins game 3 performance was punctuated by Arron Asham cross checking Braydon Schenn and then punching him while he was down. With this game, the Penguins probably punched their ticket into a premature off season.
Most observers thought this series had the making of a six or seven game battle, but the Penguins have a lot of work to do to extend this series beyong four games. For starters, Marc-Andre Fleury has to be a lot better. Forget the fact he’s allowed 19 goals in three games, how about the fact his save percentage is slightly south of eighty per cent? Every time Pittsburgh have taken the lead in a game, Fleury has allowed a softie. However, Fleury is certainly not the only one who deserves blame.
For some inexplicable reason, the Penguins have shown an indifference or a disregard for picking up a man in the defensive zone. Flyers forwards are consistently winning puck retrieval races, and they are given too much space in the offensive zone. The video below is a microcosm of the entire series for the Penguins. Claude Giroux slides between 5 Pittsburgh players, and no one lays a glove on him.