When the Penguins beat the Capitals earlier in the week in a home-and-home series I said that it was really hard to do and that it was a pretty big accomplishment that the Penguins did so even if the Caps weren't a good hockey team. I said that it was bad times in Washington. Well, after the Penguins got swept in a home-and-home with the Flyers it is bad times in Pittsburgh.
In the grand scheme of things this really isn't as big of a deal as everyone might want it to be. It is two games in an 82 game schedule and the Penguins are still going to win their division and go up against one of the two Wild Card teams in a weak Eastern Conference. What is concerning is the fact that the Flyers are inside the Penguins heads in a big way and evidently the Penguins don't seem to care about changing that.
The first period today was just an extension of the game yesterday. The Flyers got three goals in the first period and completely blew the Penguins out of the water. The Penguins best player on the ice, Marc-Andre Fleury, was pulled from the game and it looked like another rout. The other 18 guys that played in the dark jerseys today did little to nothing and if I am MAF I am pissed. Fleury got pulled, but it wasn't on him.
What was good to see was that the Penguins were able to bounce back and play a pretty good second and third period. They scored a late goal in the first and then scored about five minutes into the second and all of a sudden it was a one goal game with a ton of time left. Luckily they got a power play and then gave up a shorthanded goal. So, yea. They came back to score again and make it a one goal game but couldn't tie the score. Sidney Crosby actually hit the post with the goaltender pulled as time was expiring and that was about as close as it came.
As I said before the Penguins continuing to let the Flyers bait them into playing like idiots is a massive problem. Losing happens. Losing to the same team on back-to-back days happens. This goes back years. This just isn't something that happened last year and some this year and it's new. The Flyers know exactly how to push the Penguins buttons and they take the bait each and every time. Take the opening minutes of today's game. Scott Hartnell delivers a clean hit and Robert Bortuzzo comes in and takes a penalty. The Flyers score on the power play and it's 1-0. Why go after Hartnell? Does "the code" say that you aren't allowed to hit other players? Just foolish and stupid and it cost the Penguins a goal. A few shoves and the Penguins lose their minds. It's no secret either, that's the worst part. I know it isn't easy to ignore things like this and emotion played a huge part in the game but when it continually happens game after game at some point you need to check your emotion at the door and try to win the game instead of trying to prove you are "tough". People love the hit stat. You know what, it's not good when he Penguins are out-hitting opponents. You know what it means when you have a significant amount of more hits than your opponent? You don't have the puck. If you don't have the puck, you don't score. You don't score, you don't win. Plain and simple. This is on Dan Bylsma. Ultimately it comes down to the players on the ice but Bylsma needs to get the message across. If he tried to and it didn't work then players need to sit for it.
The Penguins are a depleted team and even though they have two of the best players in the game you still need other players like James Neal, Chris Kunitz, Paul Martin, etc. to carry some of the load. Guys like Jayson Megna and Taylor Pyatt are being asked to do that now. Sure, Megna had a good game today but when you are missing the talent like the Penguins are it is going to catch up with you. Sometimes that can be used as an excuse but we are dealing in facts. No team can lose players like that and still expect to be like they were pre-injury.
Good news after the game. It seems that Beau Bennett (he is still alive) and Kris Letang were both cleared for full practice. Kind of shocking news on Letang but the Penguins need him in a bad way. They seem like they are starting to get some players back but it is still going to be some time for that. There aren't very many games left and then the playoffs ramp up.
Four games next week. Lots of hockey.