Remember Game 1?
Well, that game was erased from everyone’s memories pretty quickly. And for good reason, too. The Philadelphia Flyers took away the Pittsburgh Penguins’ home-ice advantage with a fairly dominating 5-1 win in Game 2. It’s now a five-game series, and the Flyers have home-ice advantage.
Here are five keys the Flyers need to follow to win Game Two can go up in the series 2-1.
Continue getting into their heads…
“I thought he hit him high,” Crosby said. “I’m sure the league will look at it, but I thought it was a pretty high hit.”
That was Sidney Crosby on Claude Giroux’s “hit” on Kris Letang. If Crosby remembered what happened, he’d know that he himself pushed Giroux into Letang, causing the large impact that made Letang leave the game.
This means that the Flyers are getting into Crosby’s head. Crosby is typically a very soft-spoken guy when talking to the media, so whenever he speaks out about something, he usually has something major to say. A few years ago, during the 2012 series between the Flyers and Penguins, Crosby said that he doesn’t like “any of them”, speaking about the Flyers.
Of course, we all know how that series ended up. Nonetheless, getting into the head of Sidney Crosby means that the Flyers are getting into the heads of the rest of the team as well. Certain Penguins wouldn’t have been embellishing to the extent they were if they weren’t frustrated.
Here’s a dive from Evgeni Malkin.
And here’s a dive from Patric Hornqvist.
Keep frustrating the Penguins to take them off their game.
…but watch your back
However, when a team is frustrated, they tend to play dirtier.
In the 2012 series, the Penguins got very frustrated, and Aaron Asham crosschecked Brayden Schenn in the neck and punched him in the head before getting a penalty. We basically saw a replay of that from Hornqvist in Game Two. Hornqvist had Nolan Patrick on the ground, someone who had a concussion earlier this season.
What did Hornqvist do? He punched him multiple times in the head.
Before that, Hornqvist labelled an elbow for the head of Brandon Manning but mostly missed.
Injuries won’t help the Flyers in this series, so while they want to agitate the Penguins, they need to make sure their heads aren’t being targeted.
Embrace the underdog status
“I said it coming in,” Hakstol said. “Nobody’s really giving us a chance to win this series. I don’t know if anybody still will. But I know this: we just got it down to a five-game series and we introduced us to this series tonight.”
Cue Jason Kelce. No one has given the Flyers a chance this series, and you’d be hard-pressed to find many who gave them a chance following Game 1. However, Hakstol decided the best remedy would be to do nothing and keep the same exact lineup and goaltender in for Game 2, and it worked. Brian Elliott has built momentum, and the top line got their mojo back.
It takes guts to look at a lineup that just lost Game 1 of the playoffs by a score of 7-0 and then put the same exact line back out onto the ice. Craziness? Maybe a little bit. But nonetheless, Hakstol echoed what most of Philly always wants to hear: the Flyers are underdogs.
And we know hungry dogs run (skate) faster.
Continue forcing them to the outside
In the previous five keys article, I talked about the Flyers’ inability to keep the Penguins outside of the slot this season. That did not continue in Game 2, as the Flyers were finally able to solve the issue. While the only Penguins goal came from the slot, they did a fantastic job at forcing shots from the outside and the point throughout the entire game.
Although it’s dangerous to assume the Flyers have fully figured the Penguins’ direct slot attack out, it’s very encouraging to see them defend the area for an entire game. Over 4 shots came from the right point for the Penguins, which is very surprising considering the graphic for the last few games showed the slot looking like a Christmas tree and the point looking bare.
The Flyers did a much better job of attacking the hashmarks, especially on the right side, but there still is lots of room for improvement. The more they can get attempts in the slot, the more they will score. It sounds simple enough in theory, but it’s always going to be much harder to beat a goaltender like Matt Murray from weaker parts of the offensive zone.
Get pucks and traffic to the net
In Game 2, two Flyers goals came because they sent traffic to the front of the net.
On Sean Couturier’s goal, the puck bounced off Kris Letang and behind Murray. Couturier was on the goal line and looking for Giroux when he threw the puck in the slot and off Letang.
Moral of the story: get bodies to the net. You never know what will happen when there are multiple people that the puck could potentially bounce off of. The Flyers will need to continue their scrappy play to win Game 3, and a major part of it will be by forcing themselves to the net.
Game Three is today at 3 p.m.
Photo by Heather Barry/Sons of Penn