Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Conference Quarterfinals Game 4 Recap - Penguins 10, Flyers 3

Man. How good does that feel. Winning a game is one thing, scoring ten goals and shutting down the Philadelphia offense for the final two periods is a whole different ballgame. The Penguins got into some trouble early and gave up three power play goals in the first period but rebounded nicely to score eight unanswered goals and assured themselves of at least one more game in this series.

There were probably as many good things in this game as you could come up with in the first three games combined and they don’t necessarily only deal with the Penguins scoring ten goals. It was much more than that. They seemed composed and when the Flyers threw a punch they were able to throw back and they didn’t give the Flyers a chance to throw another punch. The defense looked good and Marc Andre Fleury threw up back-to-back shutout periods for the first time in this series for the Penguins.

I am not even going to come close to talking about all the goals scored here but I just want to talk about a few points. The first is that this game was called about as tight as it could be. The Penguins got nine power play opportunities and the Flyers got five themselves and while there were some legit penalty calls there were also some that really left you scratching your head. The officials were whistle happy and it just wasn’t a well officiated game. The plus side was that the Penguins got the message after taking unlimited penalties in the first period and play good, disciplined hockey in the second and third.

That being said the power play was on acid tonight. They had nine chances and they scored on four of them and really fueled the Penguins in the second period after they went into the break with only a one goal lead. While a lot of times the Penguins seem very stationary and get a lot of perimeter shots they were able to move the box against the Flyers PK and that opened up the East-West pass that just killed the Flyers. It actually looked a lot like the Flyers power play against the Penguins which was nice.

On the other side the Flyers power play just raked the Penguins over the coals. They were 3-of-5 on the power play and it really sparked the team. If the Penguins stayed out of the box this is probably a 10-1 game. If the Penguins want to keep this series going then they have to stay out of the box as much as possible because the Flyers power play just owns them right now.

While much of the first and second period were littered with power plays and penalties the Penguins did a really nice job when there was some 5-on-5 time. They dressed seven defensemen for the game and it was a great idea as it kept all of them fresh and you could really see the difference as they weren’t giving the Flyers any space to work and it was just really refreshing to see after they were so God awful bad in the first three games of the series. Maybe more impressive than the ten goals was the fact that the Flyers really didn’t have any solid chances for the final two periods. Most of the problems the last three games are the Penguins scoring a huge goal then giving up the goal right back to the Flyers. Not tonight, it felt good.

While Fleury has been largely bad for the series he really had a decent game by my looks. He was really shaky early and gave up a couple soft goals and even though the Flyers were on the power play they were shots he needed to stop. The second and third period he looked like he settled down and in the third period made a couple of really nice goals, one of which set up Jordan Staal’s third goal. Oh yea, on that goal he had the primary, and only, assist. If Fleury can come out and be about average then the Penguins are going to have a good chance to win Friday.

The Flyers thought they had figured out their goaltending situation but if it wasn’t for the Penguins playing so horribly defensively Ilya Bryzgalov would be getting talked about like people are talking about Fleury. Bryz was pulled after only 23 minutes of action and gave up five goals on 18 shots but it wasn’t much better for Sergei Bobrovsky who gave up the exact same line (five goals, 18 shots) in relief. Just not a good night to be a Flyers goaltender.

Staal might be the Penguins best forward and he continued to play some really good hockey tonight. Along with playing some really good defensive hockey he was able to net a hat trick and just has really come into his own on the offensive end. The third of his three goal was just an unreal laser that beat Bobrovsky high glove. Just a great game for Staal who has been good all series. I know there has been a lot of talk about Staal being the “third fiddle” but Staal played 22:53 tonight which was second on the team to only Kris Letang. Some third fiddle.

Honestly no idea where to even go. After being invisible all series Evgeni Malkin came alive with two goals and an assist. Welcome to the series Geno. Sidney Crosby also had three points with a goal and two assists while Matt Cooke (0+2), Pascal Dupuis (1+1), Tyler Kennedy (0+2), Chris Kunitz (0+2), Matt Niskanen (1+1) all had two points. Steve Sullivan also scored a goal and had two assists to join Malkin, Crosby and Staal with three points.

The three guys who deserve big credit is Eric Tangradi, Brian Strait and Simon Despres all played for the first time in the series and held their own. For a team that was in such shambles defensively it was a really strange feeling to see a pair of rookie defenseman playing in the playoffs, in the same game, but they looked pretty comfortable. They didn’t try to do too much and played good positional hockey which is what was needed. I bang on Tangradi a lot but he played a pretty nice game and even drew a penalty. I wasn’t excited about him being in the lineup but really nice job by him and the other two of stepping up when the team needed him.

A stat that typically goes unnoticed is faceoffs. The Penguins won 40-of-69 faceoffs tonight and that is a great job of getting extra possessions for your team. Staal was 15/23, Crosby 14/25 and Malkin 6/10. Just a great job by those guys of winning draws in order to give the Penguins extra possessions and more puck control which is what you want to do when you are working against a team with as much skill up front as the Flyers have. It was also interesting that only five players took a faceoff for the Penguins and Richard Park was the only one below 50% as he only won one of five.

Just a great feeling to win a game like this. I didn’t have much faith that the Penguins could come in and get a win, but they did. They get to play at home and have a chance to make this an interesting season. Hopefully Fleury can take some confidence from his shutout periods and the Penguins can stay out of the box and continue to play simple hockey. Should be a great atmosphere on Friday.

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