Friday, May 16, 2008

Flyers not quite ready to fade away

Philadelphia flew out of the gates on Thursday night, determined it seemed to stretch the Eastern conference final out to at least one more game and maybe more.

In front of the ever noisy and excitable home crowd, the Flyers put forward perhaps one their best forty minutes of hockey in the playoffs this year, a fast paced, hard hitting two period of hockey that seemed to set the Penguins back on their heels a bit.

Pittsburgh picked a bad night to have a bad game, the opportunity to eliminate the Flyers was there and the past three games provided enough evidence that the Flyers might have run out of gas. But somewhere between game three’s disappointing ending and face off for game four, the Flyers found something in reserve.

They outplayed the Penguins quite noticeably for the first forty minutes, taking a 3-0 nothing lead into the final period. The final twenty minutes found a pulse for the penguins in this game, or more to the point Jordan Staal decided that it might be a good idea to try and eliminate the Flyers in four.

Staal accounted for both Penguin goals in the third and seemed determined to add a third one before the Flyers launched an empty net goal late in the third to bring the game to an end and allow the nasty after the whistle junk to take place.

A few skirmishes, some questionable hits and a lot of jawing brought game four to an end, the Flyers able to point to a scoreboard that showed a 4-2 final in their favour and promises of a return engagement on Sunday afternoon in Pittsburgh.

The Flyers are rather fortunate that the Penguins ran out of time, while the first two periods were the Pens at their worst, the final frame was the Pens at their best. They rebounded nicely from the three goal deficit and had the Flyers running all around the rink in the final period.

You had the sense watching the last ten minutes of play, that if the Pens could only have had a few more minutes on the clock that game four was destined for overtime and possibly a Penguin sweep.

As things turned out, the Pens couldn’t find the equalizer in time and after surrendering the empty net goal in the final minute most likely began thinking about game five.

It’s the second series in a row for Pittsburgh where they’ve a weakened opponent on the verge of elimination and could not take advantage of their situation. It still seems doubtful that the Flyers can claw their way back to a game seven showdown, but they provided a sign of life and a sign of determination on Thursday.

Pittsburgh will need to focus on the task at hand for Sunday, sending things back to Philly for a game six is just asking for more trouble than they really need to have this year.

The Flyers will be feeling pretty emboldened with their win of Thursday, the best way for Pittsburgh to stop that momentum in its tracks is to take the play away from Philadelphia and reduce their scoring opportunities, all the while as they fire away at Martin Biron.

As they learned on Thursday, the key to winning is quality shots and plenty of them, sitting back and playing cautious is something that they will do at their own peril on Sunday.

Globe and Mail-- Flyers show signs of life
Philadelphia Inquirer-- The Perfect Swarm
Pittsburgh Post Gazette-- Flyers hold on to top Penguins
Pittsburgh Post Gazette-- Sloppy first period a killer
Pittsburgh Tribune Review-- Pens can't seal deal, Game 5 Sunday
Pittsburgh Tribune Review-- Penguins need to end it
. Stats Pack

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