Recap 68: Pens Win Dud, Whatever

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This game had all the build up to it, big implications in the standings, a cross-state rivalry, a huge snow storm happening before the game, the works. The pregame for this showdown literally wrote itself because of the things I just mentioned. The hype was there and we went through the day gearing up for a hockey game, it felt like the playoffs were here. NBCSN felt this too obviously, as they decided to mostly talk about the Super Bowl champion Eagles during the pregame and hockey suddenly took a backseat to football.

 

It’s usually not good to get compared with anything that happened in the 2002-2004 era and this is no exception.

The Flyers are decent at something?

This is an encouraging sign heading into April. Everyone is all big on “secondary” scoring but they never link defensive scoring in that category. 3 to 5 goals by defensemen in the playoffs can be difference makers.

Can you imagine the 3 man line combinations that early 90’s team could’ve had? Lemieux-Stevens-Coffey, Francis-Jagr-Murphy… wow.

Recall that the Pens have won two in a row in OT, which is what Grove was hinting at.

No surprises to the lineup tonight, Sullivan liked the way his team has been playing and in a playoff style game he wanted to show this group of men that he trusts them:

To go along with the theme of talking about football a lot in the pregame the geniuses at NBCSN decided it would be a cool idea to put a member of the Philadelphia Eagles between the glass with Pierre. I should mention that he knew nothing about hockey as it was his second game ever so the entire period was nothing but the NBCSN crew explaining the rules of the game to him. It was atrocious.

As for the game the Flyers took the games first penalty which the Orange faithful in attendance didn’t agree with. Fortunately for them the Penguins just wanted to pass the puck with each other while catching up, laughing and having a grand ole’ time. The Flyers would take the next penalty as well, the Penguins did the same thing on that powerplay but then Kessel took a penalty to cancel it out.

The 4 on 4 was uneventful.

The Flyers powerplay took over and they were about as impressive Dave Hakstol looks. Following the kill the Flyers took yet another penalty and the Penguins looked dead yet again, so this time Schultz took a penalty to send the game back to 4 on 4.

The 4 on 4 was uneventful.

The Flyers powerplay took over and they were about as impressive as Mike Milbury’s explanation that if a player makes himself defenseless he isn’t defenseless. I take that back, because that was actually an impressive statement made by Milbury but not for the intelectual reasons he thought, the Flyers powerplay on the other hand sucked.

The Flyers then decided it would be a super good idea to give the Penguins a 4th powerplay in the period. This time the Pens started shooting which was a bold strategy, Cotton. After a near clear and a heroic keep in by Letang the Pens moved quickly to get the Flyers out of position, the puck comes to Geno and he sends the hotdog with some mustard on it to his buddy Phil:

PHIL KESSEL (28) Assisted by MALKIN (46) & CROSBY (49) @ 18:35 PPG

In his 900th career game the American hero shows that it’s only Phil in Philadelphia.

Neither team would do anything in the last minute and the Pens would leave this bizarre period with a 1-0 lead which is similar to a team leading at the end of the first quarter.

Bryan Rust left the ice to enter concussion protocol, in his absence the top lines were double shifted.

The Flyers came out in the second period ready to go and it caught the Pens off guard, two minutes into the period they were tying the game after a puck intended for Patrick redirected off of Brassard and in.

Nothing you can do with this, moving on.

The Flyers kept pushing and the Penguins started making some of the same defensive mistakes we’ve seen lately, eventually an extended shift caught up to them and by some bizarre luck this puck went in to give the Flyers the lead:

I don’t even know what to make of this goal so it really isn’t worth analysis. Following the goal something important happened though, this switch went off for the Penguins and they started playing their game. To their credit the Flyers played well too but the Penguins transition game is still the cream of the crop in the NHL. After some good offensive zone cycling the puck comes out to the point where the Flyers allow a lot of their 5v5 shots get through, and sure enough this one by the Oil Rig got through:

JAMIE OLEKSIAK (4) Assisted by SCHULTZ (16) & GUENTZEL (19) @ 9:24

A tried and true strategy, get it to the point, go d to d and fire looking for a redirect. Huge goal for the Pens as the defense continues to stay engaged.

With the game tied again it really started to feel like a playoff game with tight checking and both teams exchanging chances. After a long shift for the third line in their defensive zone Riley Sheahan takes a mental interference penalty to give the Flyers their third powerplay of the game. The Flyers powerplay was about as impressive as balls and actually took momentum away from their team. Following the conclusion of the kill the Penguins started transitioning again and after getting some good looks a 2 on 1 developed with Crosby and Sheary and Conor Sheary, as usual, fell down

Image result for not again gif

but not before he scored this time

Image result for pelvic thrust gif

CONOR SHEARY (13) Assisted by CROSBY (50) & OLEKSIAK (8) @ 14:25

This is a really smart play by Sheary to hit the brakes in anticipation of a rebound, something he definitely learned while playing with Sid for an extended period last season.

The Penguins started rolling again until Oleksiak took a penalty, this put the Flyers powerplay back on the ice which once again silenced the building as it was about as impressive as a baking soda with vinegar volcano entry in the science fair. Following the kill the Penguins put the pedal to the metal in the final minutes of the period. After some vicious cycling by the reincarnated top line of last year in the absence of Rust the puck was once again on Sheary’s stick, and he was once again falling down, and he was once again scoring:

CONOR SHEARY (14) Assisted by GUENTZEL (20) & CROSBY (51) @ 19:20

What a play by Guentzel in a pressure situation to make this pass instead of shooting. With his 51st assist on the year Crosby hit the 1100 point career milestone. Everyone will most likely mention that Conor Sheary can only score while with Crosby, which is true, but with the offensive depth this team has is there a problem playing him there if he is going to score?

Neither team would do anything in the remaining time and the Pens would take their 3 unanswered goals into the lockerroom while a stunned Philadelphia audience contemplated suicide.

Bryan Rust did not return in the period which is why Sheary was up with Sid and Jake. In his absence Sullivan rolled with Guentzel-Sid-Sheary, Hags-Geno-Hornqvist, Sheahan-Brassard-Kessel, Kuhnhackl-Sid/Malkin-Simon

Since this game had the playoff feel to it there was nothing the Pens needed to do after such a dynamic second period other than shut the door in the third. They started playing more conservatively in the neutral zone and though the Flyers maintained the majority of the possession in the first 5 minutes the Pens made sure there weren’t any grade A scoring chances. This was the first time we’ve seen the Penguins enter this Sullivan style protect the lead in awhile and damn was it nice to see again. They manage to rush 2 in deep on the forecheck while playing the neutral zone tightly completely suffocating the Philadelphia offense.

With about 12 minutes left Malkin got called for tripping putting the Flyers on their fifth powerplay opportunity and it was about as impressive as the coffee at your work. The Philly faithful booed at the conclusion of the penalty and the Penguins continued playing keep away when they had the puck and clamped down in the neutral zone when they didn’t.

It looked like playoff hockey at its finest, and we know a thing or two in a row about that.

With 6 minutes to go the Penguins turned up their forechecking game and started toying with the Flyers as Philly couldn’t get out of their own zone. With 2 minutes left the Flyers pulled their goalie and it was everybody’s favorite Russian putting the icing on the cake.

EVGENI MALKIN (38) Assisted by HAGELIN (17) & SHEAHAN (17) @ 18:19

The Flyers got a little chippy as time expired as expected.

In West Philadelphia the battle raged,

the Flyers were hot completely engaged,

they got one little lead and their fans went nuts,

then Sid said hold on bitches the

DEUCE LEAVES WITH US


THOUGHTS:

  • I didn’t mention him a lot during the recap but Tristan Jarry made a good amount of huge saves for the team. He has this weird complex of making me anxious as hell while watching him even though he is making save after save. Jarry finished with a .929 save percentage and couldn’t really do too much on the two goals even if Pierre thought the second one was his fault
  • There is no denying that the Guentzel-Sid-Sheary line has chemistry. As soon as they were reunited Sidney Crosby was noticeable on every single shift along with the other two. Put Sheary with Sid and suddenly you have a casual Rust (when healthy)-Brassard-Kessel third line… get out of here
  • Mike Milbury once again proved the incompetence of NBCSN last night by saying the game was a “dud” afterwards because there wasn’t a lot of physicality in it. A nationally televised game where the back-to-back champions handled the “hotter” team while Phil Kessel and Evgeni Malkin both score and Crosby has 3 points. No other sport shows a nationally televised game, gets that result from the stars, and then complains about something first thing. It’s a fucking joke.
  • Dominik Simon only played 4:34 but you can still recall a few of his shifts as he was once again showing confidence in his game, the injury to Rust just mixed up the lines too much
  • Even with Simon getting 4:34 and Rust getting 2:24 Sullivan managed his forwards beautifully, with only Crosby going over the 20 minute mark. Sully just has a really good concept of time management during the games. No surprise that Letang finished with 27 minutes and paced all defenders
  • Huge shoutout to the penalty killers, even if Philly’s powerplay was about as impressive as bran, Brassard, Sheahan, Kuhnhackl and Hagelin were exceptional in this game keeping the Flyers out of the center of the zone. Tom Kuhnhackl could potentially be a giant bruise at this point.
  • It’s always sunny in PHILadelphia when the team goes in needing a win, delivers, and walks out on top of the division, see yinz Friday

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