In between the first and second periods of Game 6 in Philadelphia, I sent my friend a text that read “[BLANK]ing finish you [BLANK]s”. I won’t get into the specifics about whether or not the first word began with F or if the second word was a term for ‘penis,’ but I will say that the Pens sure took my in-depth advice to heart and played two periods of legitimate playoff hockey: they got pucks to the net, they got rebounds, they tested Biron (he failed), Fleury came up big when he had to, they won almost every single loose puck, and stars like Crosby and Malkin looked like Crosby and Malkin and not, as they have at times in this series, imposters in replica jerseys who make commission on turnovers.
Ed Olczyk and a number of my Philly friends were all over Daniel Carcillo after the game for agreeing to drop the gloves with Max Talbot in the second, calling him undisciplined, but I wonder how much of that momentum swing can be truly attributed to the fight. Yes, Crosby did compliment Talbot after the game, but I think it’s a little easy to just say “before fight = no goals, after fight = four goals, therefore the fight led to goals.” The Pens actually played a solid first period in terms of puck possession, they just had some isolated mind cramps and continued trouble with basic puck clearing, but if the Pens were really waiting for the spark of Max Talbot getting the crap beat out of him to actually start getting pucks to the net, then I’m severely skeptical about their motivation for upcoming playoff games.
The goals the Pens did give up did appear to be on independent breakdowns as opposed to a lengthy period of being dominated or anything, but that still hardly bodes well for future series; Talbot getting his stick lifted by Mike Richards looked like something that an uncle would do to mess with his toddler nephew in a driveway hockey game, Goncher was pathetically out of position when he got back too late to do anything to Richards but also too soon to account for Knuble on the rebound, I still don’t know how the Pens’ D let Briere get behind them on a frickin’ penalty kill (we thought they were gonna just dump and change!), and Hal Gill, who’s actually had a strong series for the Pens, caused more than a few heart attacks with his pass from behind the net to a wide-open Flyer in the slot to set up a picture-perfect scoring chance that somehow didn’t go in. Give the Flyers credit for burying chance after chance in this series (besides Game 4), but it’s the Playoffs, and the Pens aren’t gonna be able to win by making it that easy for a team to rack up numbers on the scoreboard regardless of how many long cycling shifts they muster in response.
Still, there were a lot of positives to come out of this game; the first period of Game Five combined with the second and third of Game Six comprised a wholly dominant three-period span of Playoff hockey, and yes, as all locker room postgame quotes love to remind us, games are 60 minutes, but the Pens should at least be able to build off the notion that when they’re hustling for pucks, banging for rebounds, and playing competent defensively, they’re right there with any team in the East.
Also, did any one notice that for all the Flyers fans’ unhealthy obsession with Crosby whining and diving and baby-murdering, there wasn’t a single penalty in this series called as a result of something done to Crosby after Game One? Not saying there should have been, but it amuses me that Crosby’s “NHL special treatment,” the absolute #1 preoccupation of Flyer fan animosity, ended up being the single least relevant aspect of the series. Even behind Mark Eaton’s offensive prowess.
Where does the loss leave the Flyers? De facto Flyers owner Ed Snider says the team doesn’t need major changes, just “tweaks”, but we can assume the departure of the UFA Biron and likely pursuit of Florida’s Tomas “I Glove More Things Than The Power Glove Dude From The Wizard” Vokoun or Atlanta’s Kari “Good When Healthy But Never Healthy Or Even Good” Lehtonen, but they’re gonna run into some serious cap issues if they’re not able to move/buy out Simon Gagne or Daniel Briere, even with the expiring deals of Biron and the merciful end of Derian Hatcher’s Philly tenure. Knuble is also a free agent, but he’s likely expendable because of the low-cost rescue offered by Claude Giroux, their best forward in the postseason by far, until he signs his first major RFA deal. But even though John Stevens deserves tons of credit for turning this team around, they’re not going anywhere with him as their head coach, as he’s clearly entered the dreaded NHL “Good Coach But Time With Team Is Up, Sorry Dude” Zone.
Hey, I made it through an entire Game Recap without mentioning the power play OHMYGOD I JUST DIDDDDDDDD [Puking uncontrollably for seven hours]