If there's one thing that's been made blatantly obvious, it's that the Pittsburgh Penguins can torch a scoreboard when they stick to playing their game and quit allowing the bullshit to become a factor.
It's how Philadelphia's beaten them in the lit lamps competition the prior three contests; Get under their skin, play physical against their stars, and stir up enough frustration on the Penguins bench that it literally applies a governor on their gas peddle.
Well, last night was anything but.
An end score of 10 - 3, Pens decision, is just the fallout of what happened through 60-minutes of regulation hockey.
If that's what you want to call it. I didn't see the Flyers playing hockey. I saw our boys skating on their heels like a group of hens scared shitless of the fox that got in their roost.
Pure, undisciplined outing for the Orange & Black.
I could go into details, giving you a play-by-play game review. But then this would wind up competing with The Iliad in length.
Our only potted pucks came in the 1st period from the sticks of Claude Giroux, Kimmo Timonen and Jake Voracek. All three were power-play conversions. And speaking of special teams -- the NHL went ahead and threw in their Penalty Ponies. An officiating crew consisting of linesmen Greg Devorski, and Steve Barton, and referees Chris Lee and Wes McCauley.
Together, these four zebras are like Wyatt Earp and his brothers of the Old West, sent in to take control of authority, and establish peace throughout the icy lands once again.
Wes McCauley is known not to hesitate to blow his whistle for the slightest infractions. In fact, there were five game-misconducts called, and 40-minutes of minor penalties. For 2/3rds of the game one of these two Clubs were on the power-play while the other was stuck attempting to kill them off.
Only the Pens had more success. WAAAAAAAAY more success.
Now, before you roll your eyes and think you're about to read another Philadelphia fan's rant on the referees, I'll need you to put that stereotypical baby to bed this instant.
The LAST thing I am even going to try and attempt to do is blame last night's loss on the officials.
Were they strict? Absolutely. But rightfully so.
Sunday's Game 3 might as well had set hockey back 30-years. Discipline had become fiction, and demeanor had gotten out of control.
It may have been awesome drama for the viewers, but it was certainly a blackeye on the League's reputation. Especially since it's been trying to rebuild its image, post-lockout. So the NHL (in no coincidence whatsoever) sent Wes and his crew East to the City of Brotherly Love.
I thought the game was officiated fairly. Strict, but fair. These refs did a good job making sure nothing got close to being as out of control it was on Sunday.
Until the end of the 2nd --
One could argue that Zac was just taking his next shift. Then again, another could question Laviolette's decision to send out the Flyers largest hot-head immediately after Pittsburgh's ninth goal (seventh unanswered) was scored by Jordan Staal (who pitched a hat trick performance).
The moment Rinaldo's blades met the ice, a force of blood-thirst fueled his every stride. He was a man on a mission -- not to salvage a Philadelphia goal, but -- to get in a fight. And Zbynek Michalek became the target.
After all the demand our fanbase thrusted to the corners of Brendan Shanahan's office to bring our Flyers justice after Sunday's mayhem, Zac Rinaldo single-handedly voided any argument for Philadelphia. Michalek grinded for the loose puck along the corner boards and Zac pillaged his body with cross-checks, shoves and a final gloved-punch to his head.
Zac was immediately directed off the ice with a misconduct, a double-minor penalty (served by Brayden Schenn) and will no-doubt have to answer to supplementary discipline.
After Staal burned Bobrovsky in goal, it was clear that any hopes of a miraculous comeback had been shot, killed, burned, then buried. At this point in the tilt, gleaning a sense of self-control and discipline is all the Flyers had left in efforts to swing a fraction of momentum with them on their trip back to Pittsburgh for Friday's Game 5.
We had a chance to show the world (a world fresh off of watching Sunday's embarrassing Penguins display of sportsmanship) that in the event of the Flyers getting torched, at least we wouldn't lower ourselves to the point of acting like stick-armed Neanderthals.
Not only is our goaltending labeled a joke after last night, but so's our development in self-control.
Zac Rinaldo has a lot to learn before I could call him a steady NHLer. I appreciate and respect his intensity that he displays 110% of the time. But he's a young skater with a target on his back, and has already established a negative reputation for himself in his short professional tenure. He certainly did not help his case in the final minutes of the 2nd frame.
Something's up with Bryzgalov. He's not THIS bad. We know this.
Ilya is a butterfly goaltender. An enormous advantage he has is his size and height, and how he can use it in net. With his leg pads guarding the lower holes, Bryz still has a tall upper-torso that can remedy an attempt taken high shelf.
But I noticed something last night.
As the puck got deeper and deeper on his porch, Bryzgalov hesitated (more times than not) to drop to his knees and eliminate the basement shots. He was beat low, and while standing. This lead me to believe Ilya's foot is still not 100% healthy. His right foot had suffered a chip fracture only weeks before the regular season ended, and he's not been the same twine-sitter since then.
In March, Bryzgalov was Jesus Off the Cross between the pipes, named NHL Player of the Month. Despite his shaky 4-months earlier on in the season, it had seemed Bryz gained his dominating composure back and was getting hot when it counts......Playoffs.
Last night, Ilya allowed 5-goals on this net out of 18-shots before he was pulled in the 2nd, and Bob stepped in.
By then there was still a chance of a Flyers comeback. We've seen more times than once before (an incredible understatement). But then Sergei Bobrovsky let in another five, bringing Pittsburgh's tally to double-digits.
Once again, this city's experiencing a nightmare in goal --
Calm down. That's just a joke. Just easin' the tension, baby. Just easin' the tension.
This wasn't a loss that's completely riding on the shoulders of our castigated goalies. Truth be told, our boys were on the PK almost 70% of regulation. Mixed in with our undisciplined play was a horrendous defensive effort.
In a loss such as this, it's tough to point the finger at just one or two of our blue liners. But two defensemen that standout (negatively) the most has got to be Pavel Kubina and Matt Carle.
Inexcusable. That's the only adjective I've got to explain their exertion. Well, to be honest, I've got plenty more, but momma raised a gentleman.
Before I begin digging deeper into a few selected players, perhaps it's best I just cut the cord on that now. After all, it was a team effort to lose that badly.
Perhaps I psyched myself out when I wrote, "...if there's a Club in the Playoffs right now capable of regenerating such a phenomenon, it's the highly offensive powered Pittsburgh Penguins," but right now that is all too true.
Many would say this is just one loss. But given the final score of this "one loss", our Flyers have managed to totally drop all steam they had going for them.
Marc-Andre Fleury showed flashes of his former self as the game grew on, yet our goaltending remained on the "WTF" path. It's the tiny details the Pens have gained control of that could lead to a Game 6, or...
....*gulp*, Game 7.
"I'm not worried," you say. "We're up in this series. We need just one more win."
I have news for you, my friend. When the Penguins are playing their best hockey (and last night is a prime example), they're not just tough to beat.....they're virtually unstoppable.
Evgeni Malkin broke through his ceiling, finally potting his first two goals of the series. We're traveling back to Pittsburgh where James Neal is waiting to skate and re-join the Pens, fresh off his 1-game suspension.
Has Fleury got his groove back? Who knows? One win doesn't formulate a concrete answer.
And one last shot to the balls for the Flyers is our most impressive, dominating, physical defenseman, Niklas Grossmann, has been labeled "Day-to-Day" with an upper-body injury. An injury he most likely sustained when receiving a high-check from Pittsburgh forward, Tyler "Pig Face" Kennedy midway through the 1st period.
Game 5, guys. Game 5.
From here on out, it's got to be pure skill vs pure skill. The Penguins have proved to everyone, and -- more importantly -- to themselves that if they avert the frustration and rough stuff, they can take each game...game by game...with a victory.
Show us what you're made of, Fly Guys.
Good night. F*ck me....
Edit/Update: Grossmann's upper-body injury may in fact not have been suffered by a hit from Tyler Kennedy, but from Evgeni Malkin who rushed into the Flyers zone and delivered a high hit to Niklas' head with his shoulder --
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