Anyone that watched the Philadelphia Flyers throughout the regular season could tell you that there were two sides of the coin to this team. Depending on the month, week, or sometimes even day, the play of the Flyers would vary. This goes for any team throughout the season of course, but the Flyers seemed to be one of the streakiest teams this season.
Their rollercoaster of a regular season landed them a spot in the postseason, and that up-and-down nature has not left them. It’s a characteristic that can be a great thing or a horrible thing, depending on which side of the hill they’re on. Unfortunately, they have had more downs than ups so far in this short series, putting themselves into a 2-1 deficit through three games.
It’s obviously a short sample size, but in the playoffs those kind of things seem to get thrown out the window a bit. It’s a best-of-seven series that can turn on a play, let alone a game.
In Game 1, the Flyers had a few short upticks in the first period before completely falling off a cliff. They allowed the first goal, treaded water for a bit, then the Penguins scored again and everything just went downhill from there. A missed opportunity by Scott Laughton halfway through the first period was their only great chance of the game as the Penguins imposed their will to an easy win. It looked like it would be an easy series for the Penguins, but then again it was just one game.
It was just one game where everything had gone wrong for the Flyers and they had gotten a bit unlucky. They had shaky goaltending, couldn’t drive play at 5v5, and couldn’t stay out of the box or convert on the power play anyway. Everything went poorly and the Penguins capitalized on their chances. The game showed the path to defeat for the Flyers.
A loss like the one the Flyers suffered in Game 1 would really hamper some teams (including the Flyers at times), and they went out with that loss in the back of their minds. There was a bit of a hesitant start in Game 2, as the Flyers seemed to keep the game to their pace, and they caught a break late in the first period and scored on the power play. That woke them up and got them going.
The Flyers went on to win Game 2 by a final score of 5-1, but it was a lot closer than the score shows. The Penguins had various missed chances throughout the game, including a breakaway by Sidney Crosby and a missed empty-net on a power-play, that easily could’ve shifted the game. But the Flyers prevailed thanks to some timely saves by Brian Elliott and solid play all around.
While the Penguins imposed their will in Game 1, Game 2 was more in the middle of the road. The Flyers stuck to their gameplan and although they didn’t necessarily execute it perfectly, they were able to keep the game at a slower pace and they didn’t let the Penguins have many sustained attacks.
It would be easy to point to Game 2 as a clear “up” for the Flyers, and while it was to some extent since they won, by no means was it the best hockey they can play. In Game 1 everything went poorly, and you couldn’t say the complete opposite about Game 2. Yeah, there were much better performances all around, but that was the Flyers playing average-to-good in most aspects of the game. If the Flyers were at a one on a 1 to 10 scale in Game 1, they were closer to a five or six in Game 2.
Despite the final score, it wasn’t the best effort the Flyers could put forward. Hell, it might not even be the best effort they’ve had in the entire series so far if you take away the goal column. That honor would go to the first period of Game 3, where the Flyers dominated play but unfortunately couldn’t do anything with it.
Game 3 was the epitome of the Flyers’ season, really. They dominated play in the first period. Yes, dominated. They had a handful of great scoring chances that they couldn’t capitalize on. But then it was one bad play that cost them.
That first period was the best period of hockey the Flyers have played against the Penguins all season long. At least if you take away the score.Those first 20 minutes in Game 3 were exactly the type of process that the Flyers want. The Flyers were attacking for almost all of the 20 minutes, which forced the Penguins to defend. And that is one of Pittsburgh’s few flaws. Unfortunately one of their strengths, Matt Murray (combined with some luck), made up for it.
If that first period was an up, the rest of the game was definitely full of downs. An iffy penalty call at the start of the period opened the door for the Penguins, and then things unraveled as the Flyers played undisciplined hockey – both in terms of penalties and in terms of their gameplan. They had an up without scoring in the first period, and then saw all of the downs in the second and third periods as the Penguins piled on.
Up-and-down play is really the main storyline around the Flyers’ pace this season, and it’s going to likely continue to be the rest of this series. On one hand, we’ve seen how much of a negative impact that can have. If the Flyers can’t maintain a good performance, they won’t be long for the series. On the other hand, the Flyers haven’t played their best hockey of the series yet.
We’ve seen the Flyers at their lowest, which looked something like that Game 1 loss, and we’ve also seen them at their highest when they’re firing on all cylinders. In Game 2 they had some things firing here and there, but there are still some engines to be revved up over the rest of the series. If the Flyers can find a way to have a game this series where that happens– hopefully it’ll be multiple games – they could ride it and stay hot. And who knows what happens from there.
Overall this team is playing to exactly what they are: a streaky, young, top-heavy team with depth issues. They’re going to live or die by that in the playoffs. The up-and-down nature of the Flyers will continue, and just hopefully there are a few more ups before the season comes to a close.
(Photo by Gavin Baker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
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