The Philadelphia Flyers have found themselves in a must-win situation.
Even though a loss in Game 4 won’t eliminate the Flyers, it would put them down 3-1 in the series against the Penguins going back to Pittsburgh for Game 5. A win for the Flyers, and it becomes a three-game series. A loss, and they have to win three straight to take the series.
Here are five keys the Flyers need to follow to defeat the Penguins in Game 4.
Come out hot
The Flyers looked like a team on a mission to start Game 3. They were beating the Penguins in every one-on-one battle, they were throwing their body around, and they were getting great chances to beat Matt Murray. It was a great thing to watch.
In the first two games of the series, the Penguins got off to much better starts than the Flyers, both on the scoreboard and with the flow of play. Although the Penguins lost Game 2, the energy that they started off with was high.
It also helped that the Wells Fargo Center was pumped up and ready to go. The crowd was loud all throughout pregame ceremonies, and once the puck was dropped, it was deafening. There’s a reason that home-ice advantage is so important in the playoffs. Even though they are professionals, the players feed off the fans. They are symbiotic with each other.
The Flyers are going to need to come out with that same type of effort in Game 4. Hopefully it can result in a few goals this time.
Maintain that level of play
Make sure that passion doesn’t die out so quickly, however.
Right after Sidney Crosby opened the scoring for the Penguins, the players seemed to lose hope, and the crowd became quiet. Where as that energy that was so prominent earlier in the period?
It seems like this is a constant feature of this Flyers team. Whenever they get scored on, the energy they had been playing with seems to dissipate into nothing. Teams cannot win when they have no energy or passion. If the Flyers come out with passion in the first period, they can’t just collapse in on themselves after giving up one goal. While they should’ve scored multiple times, losing all that energy after one goal speaks to the mental state of the team in that moment.
After the Penguins scored their third goal to make it 3-0, the momentum was obviously flowing directly to the Penguins’ way. Dave Hakstol wasn’t at fault for anything on Sunday – that was all on the players – but he could’ve called a timeout after that goal. In fact, Hakstol said, “I should have taken a timeout after the third, after the third goal. Hindsight is 20/20, you don’t get it back.”
No matter if he called a timeout or not, the Flyers were not in the same state they were in just a period beforehand. They can’t be that fragile mentally if they want to win Game 4.
Play with discipline
This doesn’t need much of an explanation. The Flyers’ penalty kill is bad. The Penguins’ power play is good.
Don’t let the Penguins go on the power play. It’s that simple.
After the Flyers’ lost their fire they played with in the first period, they started unravelling. They started playing lazily, and with lazy play comes stupid penalties. The Penguins were given seven power plays and scored on three of them. Those aren’t odds the Flyers want to play with.
The penalties they took weren’t because they were playing too physically, either. They were lazy penalties.
For instance, here is Scott Laughton’s high sticking penalty.
And here is Jake Voracek’s high sticking penalty.
It reads like an old DirecTV commercial. When you give the Penguins penalties, you get burned. And when you get burned, you end up going down 3-1. Don’t end down 3-1. Play smart.
The Flyers missed so many chances in the first period. They should’ve potted a few goals, but they were down 1-0 heading into the second.
You won’t get many opportunities to score on Matt Murray from favorable positions, but when you get the chance, you need to bury it. After the first period, the Flyers held a 7-1 advantage in high-danger chances. The Penguins scored on their only high-danger chance.
Good teams score on one high danger chance. The Flyers might’ve gotten great chances, but they weren’t able to put their mark on the game early.
Travis Konecny should’ve been able to handle the puck.
Nolan Patrick had the right idea but couldn’t lift the puck enough.
The Flyers need to convert great opportunties if they want to tie this series back up.
Impact players need to get going
Claude Giroux finished the regular season with 102 points, 19 points in the final 10 games, and a case for the Hart Trophy.
He only has one point in the first three games of this series.
He needs to get going if the Flyers have any chance of winning this. With Sean Couturier potentially being out of the lineup or not at full-ability for Game 4, the team will have to rely on him more than ever.
Giroux needs space to work, but it’ll be hard to come by with the Penguins’ intense pressure on him. He has a knack for finding open areas of the ice, but if he isn’t able to make good decisions when the puck is on his stick, it won’t matter.
It isn’t fair to simply pick on Giroux alone. Jake Voracek needs to get going, and maybe his promotion to the first line reignites some chemistry he and Giroux had earlier in the season. Wayne Simmonds needs to make an impact, and maybe his promotion to the second line does just that. Simmonds faced injury issues and is still not at 100 percent, but him being invisible does nothing to help the Flyers. They could use his intensity throughout the entire game.
If the Giroux, Voracek, and Simmonds can get their gears in motion, the Flyers will win Game 4. It’s a matter of “if” and not “when”.
Game 4 starts tonight a 7 p.m.
Photo by Heather Barry/Sons of Penn