GAME 5: Flyers 3, Pens 0 — Or Maybe We’ve Been Outplayed Four Straight Games?

You’re out drinking with friends on a Wednesday night, and it’s around 12, you’ve had a couple beers, but you’re getting ready to go home so you can wake up for work, then you get a text from another friend who’s clearly drunker than you are but implores you to come to some other awesome bar to meet up with a high school friend of yours you haven’t seen in years, and you end up saying “ah, screw it” and taking a cab there, drinking til 4, getting way drunker than you intended, then rolling into work at noon the next day unshowered and really obviously hungover (and still semi-drunk), only to learn that your boss had to leave for the west coast the night before and isn’t in the office, and nobody’s doing real work, so nobody cares. You traipse through the day without a problem and talk to your friend online about how your alarm was going off for an hour before you even noticed it, and how you woke up with a 90% uneaten box of White Castle chicken rings, and you both laugh for a long time but agree that it was probably a dumb idea and you shouldn’t do it again.

One week later, the exact same thing happens, and the next morning your boss happens to be out sick, and you still laugh about it with your friend and you’re not in any trouble, but it’s not as funny as the first time, and your headache is significantly worse than the first time and it doesn’t go away. Then you do it again two nights later, then again the following week, then finally one Thursday morning at 11:30, your cell phone has seven missed calls from your boss and it finally hits you — “Oh crap, I’ve been living like an alcoholic. I really can’t keep doing this.”

So here’s the Penguins, still up 3-2 after playing four straight subpar hockey games, but instead of looking at a 3-1 series and laughing about how lucky they’ve gotten with their two late power play goals in Game 2 and Fleury’s 45-save Game 4, they’re instead heading back to the road forced to stare at their complete lack of a power play and total inability to finish. Besides the first period in Game 5 (which ended 0-0), the Penguins have not outplayed the Flyers convincingly in a single period since Game 1, and with a chance to even the series for the Flyers in the balance, all notions of “the Pens just found a way to gut it out” are giving way to “oh wait, the Pens are playing crappy hockey and if they continue to play crappy hockey they will be beaten at the game of hockey.” A sobering loss makes things that much simpler.

Crosby had his worst game of the series, following up an inspired Game 4 by being an essential nonfactor on offense and directly causing the Flyers’ backbreaking third goal with a lame, predictable backhand pass to the point where three Flyers were stationed. Malkin fared better, at least managing to kick a goal in, but still ended up stuck in far too many 2-minute shifts that ended with him being tired and unable to battle for pucks. Satan’s upgrade over bizarro-Sykora was minimal, though he did blow two moderate scoring chances, Phillippe Boucher failed to clear an easy puck on the second Flyers’ goal and his shoot-first power play approach wasn’t nearly as effective as the “shoot it!” yelling home crowd would’ve loved for it to have been, and even the lengthiest puck-possession cycling shifts by the Staal line rarely led to a legitimate scoring opportunity in the last two periods.

I recall a friend of mine suggesting at the beginning of the playoffs that the Pens wouldn’t be able to maintain Dan Bylsma’s much-lauded aggressive style of play through the entire postseason, which I dismissed as ridiculous, because these are impeccably-conditioned professional athletes and the Pens’ newfound depth after the deadline would set them up ideally for a long Cup run. Instead, the Pens really have looked tired the past couple games, they haven’t maintained their aggression at all, they’re barely forechecking on the powerplay, they’re not making the Flyers’ defensemen work, they’re sure as hell not making Biron work (aside from the past first period, which Biron handled admirably), they’re not connecting on extremely simple neutral zone passes, and aside from the third line at times, none of the talent and chemistry that defined the past month of Penguins hockey has been prevalent in these past couple games. Yes, it’s the playoffs, so there’s theoretically going to be less room to make plays and uglier goals and a greater emphasis on special teams, but the Flyers ought to be just as tired as the Penguins and they’re simply not showing it anywhere close to as obviously, and the Pens are now undeniably fortunate to be on the brighter side of their 3-2 series.

So what to do in Game 6? I would say “more urgency on the power play” and “bury your chances,” but I’ve been saying that for three games and it hasn’t happened. Instead, let’s start with “stop being complete retards in the offensive zone,” same thing in the defensive zone, and from there, we’ll work up to the complicated stuff (e.g. completing passes, breakouts, ever getting traffic in front of the net, ever getting rebounds, hitting the net, not having every single shot blocked by three dudes, and so on.)

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One Response to “GAME 5: Flyers 3, Pens 0 — Or Maybe We’ve Been Outplayed Four Straight Games?”

  1. Oz Says:

    You said the word I screamed yesterday.. finish. We haven’t had it since Game 1.

    Also, and I don;t bitch about calls, but that 3rd period hook which slammed the momentum doors was bull when looked at under the light of the three non-interference calls in the second.

    I don’t mind calls, as long as they are consistent.

    The Disallow on the Malkin goal was the right call and it looked like the Pens fluffed the pillow after it.

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