Friday, April 17, 2009
Stevens was right. The Flyers were more disciplined in Game Two against the Penguins, at least for the first 45 minutes or so. With the Flyers up 2-1 late in the third period, Jeff Carter was called for hooking Jordan Staal. Carter clearly did nothing wrong on the play as Staal made a smart play to make it look like Carter's stick was hooking him down. Regardless, the Penguins proceeded to tie the game up on the ensuing power play, forcing the game into overtime, where the Flyers really came unhinged.
After a tense 15 minutes of up and down overtime action where the two teams traded chances, the Flyers found themselves on the power play with a great chance to win the game. Two terrible penalties by Mike Knuble and Claude Giroux later, the Flyers are down 5 skaters to 3 and basically hoping the Pens didn't score. Bill Guerin did the enevitable and won the game for the Penguins, 3-2, giving Pittsburgh a commanding 2-0 series lead.
We always talk about the Flyers being a team that uses toughness and grit to will themselves to victory. When the Flyers stay within themselves and don't become over-aggressive, they are a great team. When they take dumb penalties, like Knuble's stupid cross-check on the power play and Giroux's mindless slash, they are a boneheaded team that doesn't deserve to win.
Those two penalties negated all the positive things the Flyers did for the first three periods of the game. Because, really, the Flyers played much better in Game Two than they did in Game One. They played with much more intensity, jumped out to a lead in the first period and showed a willingness to make the tough plays and do the little things it takes to win. No one will remember all of those good things they did; instead, they will remember the two dumb penalties the Flyers took that cost them the game.
The series will now return to Philadelphia with the Flyers down 2-0, but it isn't over yet. The Flyers need to win the next two games to get back into it, but they are still very much alive. That is, they are alive if they play smart hockey and stay disciplined. If the Flyers lose either Game Three or Game Four, they are done. There is no way the Flyers are going to be able to pull off 3 or 4 straight wins against this Penguins team.
There isn't much that separates the Flyers and the Penguins. Game Two was an evenly played contest between two very evenly matched teams. If the Flyers could have kept their heads, the game likely would have gone one or two more overtimes and it would have been won on a lucky bounce here or there. Unfortunately for the Flyers, their discipline failed them at the wrong time.