A Lack of “Sticktoitiveness” – Breaking Down the Real Reason the Flyers Lost Game 3 to the Penguins.

Photo Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

It was a common theme.

Each player in the locker room said it.

The coach reiterated it, ad nauseam, during his nearly 10-minute press conference.

The Flyers lost Game 3 to the Penguins 5-1 because of a lack of discipline.

I’m here to tell you that while giving Pittsburgh’s potent power play seven chances (of which they scored on three times) is certainly a way to lose a game, it wasn’t where the game was lost.

Nope. The game was lost in the locker room between the first and second period – before all the penalties started piling up.

The game was lost after the Flyers played perhaps their best period of the hockey season and had nothing to show for it.

A great game plan by Dave Hakstol blew up in smoke and went out the window pretty quickly in the second period when the Flyers stopped believing in the process.

A 1-0 deficit after 20 minutes – even the most energized 20-minutes of the season – wasn’t the culprit either. It was just one goal. The result of one bad decision – the only one of the first period – and the Flyers picked up where they left off immediately after it, so it wasn’t the deflating element.

No, the downfall for the Flyers was the fact that they couldn’t finish their chances – and they had a bevy of them – in the opening 20 minutes. They were in full throttle mode for 20 minutes and couldn’t crack Matt Murray and the Penguins defense – which blocked a ton of shots, yet again.

So, in the second period, the Flyers started a little more tentatively. And when you’re tentative in the playoffs, it leads to mistakes – in this case, stick infractions, that led to a parade of penalties.

A Claude Giroux slash:

…which shouldn’t be a slash, but hey, they call it in the NHL for some reason and they do all the time, so, it is a penalty.

It led to this goal:

(By the way, Andrew MacDonald was being crucified for this, but his skate was taken out from under him by Patric Hornqvist’s stick, and, well, the snow angel ensued, but really, that’s just a good Penguins power play.)

Then a couple minutes later, Jake Voracek does this:

And of course, the Penguins answer with Evgeni Malkin providing the power play honors:

Oh, and then an NHL Playoff record for the fastest two goals ever scored was tied just seconds after that:

And there was your hockey game.

But why did it come off the rails? Why was everyone talking about how good a first period it was and then it just went south in the second?

Because the Flyers became frustrated with themselves and started doubting what they were doing well because it hadn’t yet yielded fruit.

In the first period the Flyers were really taking it to the Penguins. They were faster. Stronger. More determined.

The opening minutes were insane. The roof of the Wells Fargo center was ready to blow off. Sean Couturier was playing at another level. He was pounding every Penguin he could. He wallpapered Crosby a couple times. He was in the head of Kris Letang, who was more concerned with trying to push Couturier’s helmet over his eyes from behind than actually playing the game.

And all the lines were buzzing. They were creating chance, after chance, after chance.

And just not cashing in.

There was this:

And this:

And this:

And this:

This was all in the first period, mind you.

But the death knell came for the Flyers in the final 1:43 of the period.

Carl Hagelin went off for slashing and the Flyers went on the power play. They had the puck in the Penguins zone the entire 1:43, got two shots, and couldn’t score.

They went into that locker room between periods and started wondering if what they were doing was working.

It was, but self doubt started to creep in.

It’s what created the more tentative approach to the second period, which in turn led to the stick infractions – because they were playing a little slower – and in turn led to three power play goals for the Penguins.

It’s that simple. They had the Penguins on their heels a bit – and they couldn’t knock them over, and then just stopped trying hard enough to do so.

Look, this Penguins team is vulnerable. Their goalie, although he had a solid Game 3, is not as good as he was last season.

The defense, beyond the top pair, is pedestrian. The depth, while good, is a little less than a season ago.

It’s why Penguins coach Mike Sullivan had to front load his lineup and put his six best forwards all on the same lines for Game 3, rather than spread them out, as he is wont to do.

It was an adjustment he felt was needed after Game 2.

Dave Hakstol made no such adjustment – at least not until the game was practically out of reach.

And while I still don’t understand why Travis Konecny isn’t on the top line using his speed, skill and pest-factor to agitate the Penguins further, I won’t knock Hakstol here for sticking with what worked in Game 2.

But the time is nigh for something different. The Flyers power play isn’t working. They switched it up to get two guys net front, rather than two along the half wall, and that didn’t help either.

The line combinations aren’t good enough. Hakstol needs to continue to do what he’s done well in these playoffs so far and attack the Penguins vulnerabilities – and the players have to buy into that gameplan, not just for 20 minutes, but the entire game – hell, the entire remainder of the series.

Oh, and one other thing. The Flyers’ six best players have to play, at least on par, with the Penguins six best players.

If they don’t, they’re going to lose. Plain and simple.

It’s about time Claude Giroux and Jake Voracek really take a bite out of the offense in this series as they’ve been inconsistent.

Ivan Provorov and Shayne Gostisbehere didn’t have a great Game 3. They weren’t bad, but they were much better in Game 2.

Couturier was fine, but Wayne Simmonds continues to be invisible. I’m told his injuries are even worse than we’re to believe. I’m told it’s a shoulder and a hip injury that are affecting him most. It’s had an adverse effect on his skating. He’s not winning board battles. He’s playing on sheer will power, and even that might not be enough.

It’s really a shame, because we all know the kind of player Simmonds really is, and to see him like this is disheartening.

And oh yeah, in case I haven’t said it enough – Free TK.

It’s the only way to win Game 4 – which has become a must-win game now.

Otherwise, we’ll be talking about the off season by the weekend.

 

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15 Responses

  1. Are they not scratching Simmonds out of respect for his past play or is it lack of depth to replace him? It’s obvious he’s too hurt to be effective and he’s actually been a determent to the team because he’s not effective in front of the net and he can’t play physical at all. If they moved TK to the top unit, you could throw Weal on the wing and at least you’d have some speed.

    1. I think it’s a combination of both reasons you suggest.

      But yeah, Weal for Simmons wouldn’t be a terrible option at this point. At least for one game and see what happens. If it doesn’t work, you can go back to Simmons for Game 5.

      1. I agree ..or if things are that bad, Simmonds needs to bow out for the betterment of the team. I love the guy, Flyer through and through but if you are injured, you are injured. Ghost was awful the other night and Vorachek/Giroux will be on milk cartons soon. I’m most disappointed in Giroux. I actually am starting to think he’s intimidated by Crosby and it makes me sad to even type those words.

    1. This Flyers club has zero guts as soon as Crosby scored it was over baby .
      Get your Tee Times ready boys.

  2. why put two guys in front of the net if the other three guys are just going to pass the puck around the blue line looking for the perfect shot? get the puck on goal and let those two guys muck it up and get a cheapie…if they are not going to shoot, then spread them out………….

  3. Vorachek Should have been benched after his 2nd penalty. He was lazy with his stick twice in what was still a competitive game. Lazy, didn’t move his skates.

    1. here, here …tired of watching his do dumb sh*t but not be held accountable when someone like Konecny pays for every mistake he makes …at least TK’s mistakes are aggressive mistakes ..Vorachek’s are lazy

  4. Flyboys will probably win game 4. Pens win in 6 or 7. Don’t believe Pens will win a third straight Cup. They figured to get knocked out somewhere along the way but another team has to take it from them. They are not giving it away.

    1. They are tough to beat because their top end talents kills other teams on their mistakes. You can outplay the Pens for the entire game make 3 errors and lose 3-2. Their defenseman outside of Letang aren’t overly talented so they just get the puck and throw it to an open area of the ice and let their speedy forwards get to it and gain the offensive zone and start to cycle. The goaltending isn’t overly strong so they block a lot of shots. The have uber talented players and their role players are well coached and know their roles and complement their top talent perfectly. Even with that said they can be beaten. The Flyers have the formula to beat the team they just don’t have the talent to execute it for 60 minutes night in and night out. If you can pressure that defense and force them into turnovers and clog the neutral zone so they can’t find those open areas of the ice they will be stuck in their own 100 feet of ice all night. We saw in game two they can get rattled and frustrated when another team presses them into making mistakes and takes away their speed and transition game. The Lightning and Bruins are going to be a huge matchup problem for the Pens since they can match their speed and will be forecheck that defense and can roll multiple lines that will do it.

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