Really tough one to swallow if you are a Penguins fan tonight. The Pens got out to a 3-0 lead after one period of play and then really went down the proverbial shitter for a 4-3 overtime loss in game one of the best of seven series to the Flyers.
This was all Penguins all the time in the first period. They built a three goal lead thanks to goals from Sidney Crosby, Tyler Kennedy and Pascal Dupuis and things were all good. The Penguins just cruised and were the more physical team and looked like the team that wanted it more and it showed. While the goals might not have been the prettiest goals they still count the same and while you knew the Penguins have done an amazingly shitty job of holding leads against the Flyers there was no way that they would let this lead get away from them in the playoffs. They did.
The Flyers scored a tally in the second period on a pretty bad call by the officials by Daniel Briere and then the Flyers got a pair of goals in the third period in the second half of the game, the latter being a power play goal on a sick assist from Scott Harnell to Brayden Schenn. Jakub Voracek finished it off in overtime just 2:23 into it to stun the CONSOL crowd.
The defense is the main area of concern and it was bad. I thought the Penguins did a pretty nice job defensively over the last three games but tonight they were out of position and flat footed most of the second and third period and it showed. It was just a not a good night all around for the defense. An interesting number from the defense tonight is that Deryk Engelland played only 10:47 and Ben Lovejoy only had 9:23 of ice time. That put a huge burden on the top four in terms of minutes and I can’t imagine that is going to work going forward as we get deeper into the series and hopefully the playoffs.
The defense was pretty bad tonight but the guy who wasn’t bad was Marc Andre Fleury. Despite letting in a four spot in a very limited number of shots he made some outstanding saves that kept the game in the Penguins favor for some time. The power play goal was just sick and the second of the Briere goals was deflected by Crosby who was screening Fleury. If MAF plays like this through the series I have a pretty good feeling about the Penguins chances.
Speaking of Briere is there anyone that is more geared up in the playoffs than this guy? He didn’t have a great year by his standards but came through tonight with a pair of goals. Not something I want to see more of.
The two other guys that were really good on the Philadelphia side were Ilya Bryzgalov and Brayden Schenn. Schenn finished the game with a goal and two assists and was all over the ice. I think it is pretty easy to say that Schenn was the best player on the ice tonight. While Bryz gave up three goals in the first he was great in the second and third. It looked bad but a few of those first period goals weren’t completely his fault and when he finally got settled into the game he was zoned in. The Penguins beat him one more time but the puck bounced off the post and it was all for not. Gotta give credit where credit is due though.
The frustrating thing about the game tonight, besides the fact they lost, was that they weren’t able to make the in game adjustments that they needed to make and they didn’t match the intensity that the Flyers had. Philadelphia did a great job of taking away the dump and chase fore-check that the Penguins utilize and the Penguins weren’t able to figure it out and it cost them in the end. The Pens seemed to sit back on their heels and tried to absorb all the punches that the Flyers gave them but they finally got KO’d and it wasn’t pretty. Just really frustrating to watch because as you went into the third you could feel the game getting away and pretty much you knew if the Flyers were able to tie it that the Penguins might not be able to overcome that. The Penguins have now blown leads in five of seven games against the Flyers this year. Unacceptable.
The final thing I will touch on is the offside’s call that led to the first Briere goal. Let’s not kid ourselves that it was a horrible call that led to the first Flyers goal and I think anyone that watched the replay will acknowledge that it was a bad call. That being said there is no way that call led to the Penguins losing tonight. I already had some people on twitter telling me that the call had effect on the game and I fail to believe that. That call not being made didn’t make the Penguins pretty much fall in the gutter the rest of the way nor did it make the power play go 0-for-3 nor did it make the defense play like it was preseason. Did the call lead to a goal? Yea, it did but it didn’t mean that MAF couldn’t have stopped the shot or that Brooks Orpik couldn’t have been in better position to not let it happen. Blaming the officials for any part of the game is just an excuse. If blaming them helps you sleep at night that is fine but you are 100% wrong if you truly believe that.
It’s a seven game series and this is just one game. Penguins PR came out with a nice stat that said in the Penguins last four playoff series the team that won game one went on to lose each of those series. It is far from over. Buckle up.