It’s time for the Philadelphia Flyers to erase any ill feelings towards the sport of hockey. After their 7-0 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday, the two teams will (hopefully) battle it out tonight in Game Two.
For the Flyers, they’d love to just forget Game One ever happened, but the only way to not repeat the same mistakes is by going over what could’ve been done better. Needless to say, there are a lot of things that could’ve went better. There’s nowhere to go but up.
Here are five keys the Flyers need to follow if they want to bounce back in Game Two.
Attack the slot
It’s been noted that the Penguins have scored the majority of their goals against the Flyers this season with shots in front of the net, while the Flyers have barely been able to penetrate the slot.
This continued on Wednesday.
The Penguins scored six goals from the slot in Game One. The only goal that was not in a danger area was the first goal of the game, and that was a result of Brian Elliott’s poor rebound control.
While the Flyers’ defense is one story, the Flyers’ offense is another. They only had a couple shots in the slot all game, with the majority of shots coming from the left point.
Matt Murray is a great goaltender, and playoff Matt Murray can be one of the best in the game. He won’t be beaten from the point many times, and if the Flyers don’t want to get shut out all series, they’re going to need to do a better job of penetrating the slot.
Give Sanheim more ice time
When you think of the Flyers’ top defensemen, you think of Ivan Provorov and Shayne Gostisbehere. While they always get a considerable amount of time overall, you’d expect them to play the most during five-on-five play.
But they didn’t in Game One. Brandon Manning played the most minutes of five-on-five hockey by a few seconds over Ivan Provorov. Manning played 16:22 at 5v5 while Provorov played 16:15. This is not a big difference, but the point of it all is that Manning should not be playing that many minutes of five-on-five time when he has not been very responsible in his own zone.
Manning played 19:15 total, just a few seconds behind partner Radko Gudas. This pairing, the third pairing,performed the worst in terms of shot attempts against in Game One. Gudas had a corsi for relative of -19.06%, with Manning right there with him at -17.03%. Every other Flyers defenseman finished with a corsi for over 50%, surprisingly.
Some of this has to do with score effects, but those impact all players equally. Manning and Gudas still got buried.
While the “third pairing” struggled in more ice time, the second pairing of Andrew MacDonald and Travis Sanheim played well overall in less ice time. Sanheim finished with a team-high corsi for of 76.92% in 13 minutes of five-on-five time, while MacDonald finished with 61.54% in 12:49.
Allowing Sanheim room to roam will be key for the Flyers in Game Two.
Elliott needs to bounce back
Brian Elliott was poor from the start in Game One. His poor rebound control led to Bryan Rust getting the Penguins on the board early in the game, and it never got better for Elliott. After Sidney Crosby scored a goal out of mid-air, Elliott’s night was done, and in came Petr Mrazek. Mrazek finished with 12 saves on 14 shots, while Elliott made 14 saves on 19 shots.
Elliott played against the Penguins twice in the regular season, and it was a tale of two games. He allowed five goals in his first start, but made 47 saves on 52 shots en route to a loss earlier in the season before giving up 4 goals on 14 shots and being pulled in January.
The January version of Elliott showed up in Game One. Honestly, it’s probably more accurate to say that the playoff version of Elliott showed up.
In 42 career playoff games, Elliott has a save percentage of .905. When the Calgary Flames got swept last season in the first round, Elliott had a save percentage of .880. The only playoffs Elliott has played well in was in 2016 when he had a save percentage of .921 in 18 games and 2013 when he had a save percentage of .919 in six games, both times with St. Louis. His next best playoff campaign was when he recored a .904 save percentage in eight games in 2012.
That’s not good. The Flyers aren’t a good enough team to win without a good goalie. He needs to have a quick turnaround if the Flyers have any chance of winning Game Two.
Show some fight
Oskar Lindblom was slashed in the face by Olli Maatta in Game One, and that’s an understatement. There was no call on the play, and Lindblom was a bloody mess.
Moments later, Lindblom was smashed into the curved glass before skating gingerly to the bench.
Both times, not a single Flyer stood up for the young rookie. No Flyer dropped the gloves with a Penguin or even got into their faces. No Flyer took matters into their own hands.
You cannot watch your teammate get battered like that without sticking up for him. Remember when Danny Briere got hit cleanly during the final regular season game between the Flyers and Penguins in 2012? There was a line brawl. No matter if the Penguins put out a line of enforcers or not, the Flyers stuck up for their teammate.
Where was that after Lindblom got slashed? How about after he was hit hard?
They don’t need to respond in a dirty manner, but there was no response whatsoever on Wednesday night.
The Penguins have more skill than the Flyers, so the Flyers need to get tough, play stronger along the boards, and embrace their underdog status. All that involves playing with a chip on their shoulder, and they need to come out with some fight tonight.
Skate, skate, skate
From the get-go, the Flyers looked like they were skating in mud. The crowd was obviously against them, and every time Evgeni Malkin got the puck and started skating with speed, it looked like he would score. He did just that on the third goal by blowing by every Flyers player before backhanding the puck past Elliott.
I don’t think I saw a single Flyer skate nearly that fast last night.
The top line’s speed was not present at all. Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier were on the ice for four Penguins goals. The fourth line had the most dangerous chance, and if Scott Laughton was able to control the puck during a shift in the first period, the game would’ve been tied at one.
When the fourth line is the best line, that’s not good.
The only mismatch was the top line against any Penguins line. The Flyers have relied on Claude Giroux all season, and this is the worst time to go cold. Hopefully he and the rest of the Flyers come out with some jam tonight.
Game Two is set to begin at 7 p.m. tonight.
Photo by Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports