The Flyers have a simple recipe for beating the Penguins: Add turmoil, stir as needed. Grade-school recess tactics. Ray Shero’s dad perfected it.
The Penguins got up, 2-0. Flyers Coach Peter Laviolette called a time out. He put his fourth line on the ice. Harry Zolnierczyk, one of their hack jobronis, committed boarding against Robert Bortuzzo.
It was obviously premeditated. A melee erupted.
From that point, the game was chaos. The Flyers thrive in chaos.
The solution: MATURITY.
Getting a wise old hand to help level out tempers wouldn’t hurt, either. A Bill Guerin-type. Guerin played tough hockey. But he very rarely let emotion get the best of him. Very rarely let his temper hurt his team. The Penguins have leaders. But not THAT kind of leader.
It would be easier to get over last night’s loss if it wasn’t the Flyers. Take that out of the equation, and it was an exciting game marked (and perhaps decided) by erratic bounces and bad goaltending.
But it was against the Flyers. The Flyers eliminated the Penguins in last year’s playoffs. It continues to be a bad matchup.
The Penguins need to settle for winning the game. When you’re up 2-0 right off the bat, keep playing aggressive. But play smart, too.
The Penguins didn’t play smart. Shenanigans aside, the Penguins made some absurd turnovers, including too many around the blue lines. The Flyers went meat-and-potatoes. Get the puck deep. Attack the net.
The Flyers owned the blue paint. The Penguins didn’t clear anybody out. They just flopped around, flailing at the puck. Wayne Simmonds got a Gordie Howe hat trick (goal, assist, fight), but we also saw the invention of the Jakub Voracek hat trick: Three goals without actually shooting.
Things quickly went from bad to worse for the Penguins. The Flyers got two goals in a minute, then two goals in 28 seconds.
The Pens’ only emotion was frustration. Full credit for rallying late and tying the game before a Vokoun miscue/unlucky bounce gifted the Flyers the winning goal with 91 seconds left. But it should not have come to that.
The Penguins need to be tougher to play against, but don’t need to be tougher. Beating the Flyers isn’t about answering like with like, it’s about handling thug tactics with calm and discipline.
Easier said than done. But the Pens had better learn to do it.
Photo courtesy of Penguins.nhl.com.