Battle of Pennsylvania will be one series that will be talked about for a long time. There’s no doubt about it. It has been some time since an NHL playoff series has held this much venom in it. All the pieces were set for the classic after things got heated between Flyers and Penguins at the last meeting between the two in the regular season.
The games have been high scoring affairs where both goalies look like they couldn’t catch a beach ball. Marc Andre Fleury looks like he couldn’t catch a gargantuan ball if it was coming his way, while Bryzgalov has managed to do just about enough to win three games. Having said that Bryz has allowed some easy goals along the way too.
Game three was something totally different. Penguins were a completely different team. Despite striking first in the game, the team looked like they were more interested in gooning around than playing hockey. As a result of the goonery, Arron Asham and James Neal are both facing disciplinary hearings (Neal facing two separate ones) and if Brendan Shanahan has the guts and does not fall folly to the NHL’s mollycoddling of the Penguins, both Asham and Neal have played their last playoff games of the season, regardless of how long the series goes on for.
There was one moment for me where I thought the Penguins were disorganised and not in the game. It was during the first period after Laviolette called a timeout. All the Flyers players leaned over to listen to what their coach had to say, while Dan Bylsma’s three penalty killers were huddled around their net instead of getting instructions from the coach. It was a 5on3 kill and a critical moment in the game.
The Penguins playing in the series now, is not the Penguins that went to the cup final twice and won the cup in 2009. I don’t know if Penguins think that they have had to adapt their style to more physical due to playing against the “big bad Flyers”. Whether the altercations in the regular season have gotten the Penguins completely off the rails, or if the Penguins are just trying too hard, it is all playing into the Flyers’ hands.
Flyers are a team that by its very nature doesn’t step back from anything. The team has grown mentally strong by being down in 57 of its last games.
Flyers have done one thing and they have pushed Penguins so far out of its comfort zone that the Penguins game is totally lost at the moment. The only way that the Penguins can get back into the comfort zone is through strong leadership and at the moment the man who wears the C and is supposed to be the emotional leader of the team is doing anything BUT leading.
There has been a lot said about Sidney Crosby and I got a bit over excited while watching the game and called Crosby a punk and whatnot in my tweets. Let’s get this straight, Crosby is probably the most skilled player on the ice and perhaps in the world, BUT I do not rate him as the best PLAYER because of his antics and his constant whining. If Crosby’s fans wonder why many dislike him as a player, it is the type of stuff that he did in game three that ruin his reputation. In game three of the series, Crosby played like an agitator without stepping into back his actions. He was quite happy yapping while his teammates went to work. He had completely lost his focus for the game and it showed.
I had a few replies on Twitter reminding me that even Gretzky had McSorley or Dave Semenko to protect him on the ice. Yes, in his day Gretzky was a whiner like Crosby, but Gretzky had the class to stay away from the dirty game that Crosby seems to be playing at the moment.
If the Penguins want to win this series, Crosby has to lead his team and stay away from the agitation game and stick to what he is good at. If he can’t he will forever carry this series as a stain on his career as he showed his true face. Yes he will be in the Hall of Fame one day, because of what he’s won, but when you look at Crosby next to some of the great playoff leaders, like Messier or Yzerman, he is not even on the same level with those two. Players don’t respect Crosby as they would do Messier and Yzerman. If Crosby wanted to lead his team, he would’ve done so by using his voice, not his ‘fists’.
One tweet that I will hold on to, before moving away from the Crosby topic, is that if Crosby carries on like he has, it will be only a matter of time before he will be taken down and when that happens, it will be ugly and career ending (due to his concussion problems).
Defenssively, the Penguins are lost in the game. I won’t even say anything about Marc-Andre Fleury or his pathetic statics in this series, but the whole defence and Fleury have been weak. In fact, since Crosby’s return to the line up, the Penguins have given up 67 goals in 17 games. It seems that the Penguins have forgotten how to play Defence since the Penguins got the “wonder kid” back to the roster.
After the game Dan Bylsma announced that Fleury will be going in net for the next game (and the next four apparently). There is a lot of work to do for Bylsma, who has seemingly lost the control of his team in this series and for Fleury and the Penguins defensive line-up. The Penguins simply can’t afford stupidity shown by Kris Letang when he engaged Kimmo Timonen in a fight. If the Penguins want to make a series of this and save face, they have to smarten up. BIG TIME.
At the moment, the Flyers are a better team man for man. They have all the advantage going into Game four and have all the tools in their hands to finish the series there and then. But you know, hockey is a funny old game. When you think that something is a clear as day, it can throw a curve ball and change the direction. If you asked me right now, I would say that the Penguins will be swept, just because their game has not been anywhere to be seen throughout the whole series and I don’t think Bylsma has the tools to turn the boat in a couple of days.
I guess we’ll be a bit wiser in a few days once 60 minutes (or more) have been played, that is if there are enough players left on each team to finish the game.