Some observations following the Penguins’ 6-3 loss in Game 3, which cut their series lead to 2-1 against the Philadelphia Flyers in an Eastern Conference quarterfinal:
TRIB’S THREE STARS:
1 – G Martin Biron, Flyers: He’s been the Flyers best player through three games, and in Game 3 he made several sure saves after his club took a 3-2 lead.
2 – LW Scott Hartnell, Flyers: Kind of a team award here. The Penguins allowed him to play his and, overall, the Flyers to play their brand of hockey.
3 – C Evgeni Malkin, Penguins: Maybe the best playoff game I’ve seen from him. His two goals give him four, and his seven points lead the team.
*REVERSE PSYCHOLOGY: The Flyers were charged with 11 penalties and afforded the Penguins seven power plays in Game 3. Call me a guy looking for a silver lining, but I say that speaks well for a Penguins’ victory Tuesday in Game 4.
The Penguins have now been on the power play 20 times in three games. That is a pretty clear indication that the Flyers show no real interest in discipline, and they’re simply playing with fire by that way of thinking.
Every Penguins player I spoke with after Game 3 said something along the lines of, “We didn’t play our game.” That was spot-on analysis. The Penguins got bogged down in, as D Kris Letang said, “a wrestling match” – much to the Flyers’ delight.
However, officials have shown they are going to penalize the Flyers for their illegal actions. They might not be calling everything, but referees are calling enough. If that trend continues, the Penguins are at a clear advantage.
Yes, the Flyers have a superb penalty kill and their shorthanded offensive attack is dangerous; but the Penguins are too talented offensively to continuously give power-play chances. The Flyers seem perfectly willing to give those, though – and that likely will be their downfall.
*A LITTLE HELP, PLEASE: Malkin is carrying way too much of the goal-scoring load for the Penguins. His four goals count for 40 percent of the Penguins’ total.
C Sidney Crosby, who has recorded five points in three games, has scored as many goals, one, as defensemen Mark Eaton and Rob Scuderi.
Malkin is proving, so far, his MVP-worthiness, but the Penguins need some goals from C Jordan Staal, LW Ruslan Fedotenko, RW Petr Sykora. The good news is those three players are getting chances. The bad news is Biron has been up to denying them.
If the Penguins leave Philadelphia up, 3-1, after Tuesday’s Game 4, I bet it will be because either Staal, Fedotenko or Sykora finally cracked the scoresheet with a goal, or because Crosby, agitated by the Flyers’ antics in Game 3, takes Game 3 as his opportunity to remind everybody of his MVP-worthiness.
*A NOTE THAT PROBABLY ONLY INTERSTS ME: The Penguins’ loss Sunday was their first Game 3 defeat since losing at Mellon Arena to Ottawa in the 2007 Eastern Conference quarterfinals. They went 4-0 in Game 3s last season, including 3-0 on the road with wins at Ottawa, New York and Philadelphia.
A troubling trend, though: The Penguins are 1-4 in their previous two playoff seasons in Game 4, winning only at Ottawa in the first round last year.
*QUOTE AND A QUESTION: Sykora offered fairly to-the-point analysis after game 3: “The more we play into their hands with the stoppages and scrums, the more their lines get a rest and can get going. If we can just get away from that and keep our three lines going I don’t think they can play with us.”
So, dear reader, I ask you: Is the Penguins’ key to winning this series simply a matter of keeping their cool?
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