Game 2 shifted some of the momentum back in the Flyers favor and early in the game, it seemed the Flyers were putting a lot of that behind them.
Following the Game 2 win for the Flyers, Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan noted the game was lost for his team through special teams. Game 3 was certainly decided by special teams as well, this time in favor of the Penguins.
The Flyers played a very undisciplined game and allowed three goals on seven power play opportunities for the Penguins, while going 0-for-6 on the power play as the Penguins reclaimed the series lead.
Let's hit it with our Postgame Review.
- Special Teams - This was the name of the game in this series. Stay out of the box and limit the Penguins chances.
The Flyers failed at both. They took seven penalties to put the Penguins on the power play. Pittsburgh subsequently scored three goals. Game, set, match to Pittsburgh.
From a discipline standpoint, the Flyers were terrible. As a result, it shakes up the rest of your game and makes almost every other area an issue as well.
By spending so much time in a special teams battle, there is really no time to establish a 5-on-5 game. The Flyers spent 3:43 on the power play and two minutes on the penalty kill in the first period. They spent 3:26 on the power play and 4:28
on the penalty kill in the second. They spent 4:51 on the power play and 4:55 on the penalty kill in the third period. That leaves just 36:37 of even-strength time, a lot of it with the game already comfortably in Pittsburgh's favor.
Forget the Flyers last two power plays in complete garbage time. The game was decided long before then. But the first four chances, all in critical points of the game, need to be better. The puck movement is too slow. No one is really moving around and changing the approach. There is still too much looking for the perfect play.
Mike Sullivan said after Game 2 he wanted the Penguins to take more shots. The Penguins didn't hesitate in getting pucks to the net on the power play. And it created the biggest difference in the game.
- Rapid Fire - It could have been a different game with a different perspective if the Flyers weren't completely caught napping in the five seconds following the Penguins third goal of the game.
Here's the scene: Claude Giroux loses a face-off to Sidney Crosby and Crosby dips right around him. The rest of the Flyers are caught completely flat-footed and out of position as Crosby leads the rush, drops to Brian Dumoulin and his shot goes in.
Everything went wrong on the play, right down to Brian Elliott letting in a soft goal that needed to be stopped.
It is something that in hindsight, Dave Hakstol thought he could have prevented. The Flyers head coach noted that he should have called a timeout after the third goal to try to put a halt to Pittsburgh's momentum.
Obviously the Flyers can't go back and re-do the play or the decision to pull the trigger on a timeout. So add it to the list of things that need to be better in Game 4.
- Murray Announces His Presence - There is certainly a chance we aren't even talking about special teams or a five-second play if not for the play of Matt Murray in the first period.
The Flyers out-shot the Penguins, 11-4, in the first period and controlled the play. They had the pace, they had the energy, they were highly physical and most importantly, they were getting chances. The Flyers had seven high-danger scoring chances in the first period alone and Murray was turning shots aside left and right.
The last two periods resembled more of the Game 1 that Murray had. There wasn't a lot to test the Pittsburgh netminder and it was a relatively easy game for Murray after that.
But this is the Matt Murray that helped the Penguins win back-to-back Stanley Cups. This is the goaltender that announced his presence on the biggest stage in the last two years. He's now made his presence perfectly known in this series too.
- Veterans Not Getting It Done - Back to the seven penalties the Flyers took in the game, each one worse than the next. Claude Giroux took a slashing penalty. Jake Voracek had a pair of infractions. Radko Gudas, Scott Laughton and Brandon Manning joined the parade to the penalty box. The Flyers even took a bench minor for too-many-men on the ice.
Notice a common thread between all of those. For one, they were all stick infractions, which are preventable. The other commonality is that they are all by players who have been on the Flyers roster for a playoff game prior to this season. These aren't rookies making mistakes. These are veterans who are starting to let the team down.
Beyond the penalties, the Penguins got their first goal from Sidney Crosby off a turnover by Michael Raffl. Giroux's penalty led to the second goal. Voracek's two penalties produced the other two power-play goals. And the fourth Pittsburgh goal was a total debacle with Giroux as the centerman on the ice.
Perhaps that is the only goal you look at and say the personnel on the ice wasn't very veteran heavy with Nolan Patrick, Travis Sanheim and Shayne Gostisbehere on the ice as well. But, with Hakstol admitting a timeout should have been called there, that's a coaching decision that needs to be made.
When you look at the stat sheet in Pittsburgh's two wins in the series, you see it scattered with big names -- Crosby, Malkin, Guentzel, Hornqvist, Letang. The Flyers aren't getting that kind of assistance from their best players. Even in the Game 2 win, it's players like Travis Konecny and Nolan Patrick scoring goals, not Giroux, Voracek or Wayne Simmonds.
The Flyers lone goal in Game 3 came from Travis Sanheim with assists going to Patrick and Voracek. Another kid pitches in and the veterans are continuing to be MIA.
So ultimately, between coaching and veteran leadership, it was non-existent in Game 3. For the Flyers to have any chance in this series, their best players need to be better, simple as that.
- Looking for a Response - Just as it was in the aftermath of Game 1, the Flyers will go into Game 4 looking for a response to adversity. It is something the team has done well with throughout the season. A game like this will only draw out more of the doubt from outsiders to the team locker room, and after another lopsided score and questionable effort, it is warranted.
Which brings us back to the Game 2 comparison. The Flyers need to be better and they know it. Now it's time to show it.
The Flyers proved on Friday in Game 2 that they can make the systematic adjustments and play at the level that the Penguins demand. It will require that effort again to help the Flyers pull even in the series and give them a chance once again.
Play of the Game
The lone Flyers goal came from Travis Sanheim, who did pick up his first career playoff goal.
By the Numbers
The Flyers dominated the first period with a 68.97 CF% at even strength and seven high-danger scoring chances to the Penguins one.
In the remaining two periods, the Penguins had 22 shots attempts to 13 for the Flyers at 5-on-5 and had four high-danger scoring chances to the Flyers one.