Game 6: Pens look to even Quarterfinals against Flyers Sunday afternoon
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The writers of Psychology Today must be fans of NHL hockey because the title of the most recent issue aptly describes the Penguins-Flyers playoff series -- People: How to Handle Whiners, Manipulators, Bullies & More.
Discipline is a huge key to the series and the Pens won Game 5 on Friday night despite taking several undisciplined penalties.
”In the situation we’re in right now, we’ve talked about being emotionally in control in this series whistle to whistle, and not being involved in those situations after the whistle,”coach Dan Bylsma told the Penguins’ Web site. “Friday night, it was between the whistles that we were on the wrong side of that and put our team in tough situations, which, luckily, didn’t hurt us. Or at least we were able to get a win in that game. It will be a factor next game.”
During the first three games, the Penguins lost their cool while the Flyers maintained more of an even keel. The Pens took more penalties than Philly (97 PIMs to 85) while the Flyers jumped out to a three-game lead. In Games 4 and 5, Philadelphia finished with 68 penalty minutes to Pittsburgh’s 46 – both Penguins wins.
Evgeni Malkin, who was whistled for a pair of unnecessary penalties in Game 5, offered his take.
“Just be patient and just play my game,” Malkin noted. “Last game I had two bad penalties. I’m a little bit nervous. So play my game.”
The Penguin center gave credit to his opponent and shadow in the series, Sean Couturier.
“It’s tough. He’s a good, good player. He plays with Max Talbot. I know him, he’s a good player too. We just need to show our best and if we play right, we have a chance to win.”
Malkin’s collision with Sidney Crosby on Friday bordered on catastrophic.
“We both go to the puck and it’s my fault because ‘Sid’ controlled the puck. I just think it’s a loose puck and I tried to pick it up, but since Sid is moving a little bit to the left I can’t stop. It’s too fast.”
If the Penguins still have a trick up their sleeves for Philadelphia, it just might be a two- or three-goal game by Malkin. He collected 50 goals during the regular season but ranks fourth on the Penguins with only two goals through five playoff contests.
The aforementioned Crosby practiced Saturday after taking the Malkin hit and sliding into the goal post Friday. He’s ready for Sunday after winning the last two games.
“I think we’ve executed much better,” Crosby said of Game’s 4 and 5. “We’ve limited our mistakes and are getting ourselves a much better chance in the game. That’s really been the difference. They are still getting opportunities. They’re a good team. They’re going to have opportunities, but I think we’ve limited our mistakes. That’s really been the difference.”
Much of the credit for Pittsburgh’s success has to go to Marc-Andre Fleury and Jordan Staal.
Fleury has allowed only two goals in the last 104 minutes of action, a span of more than five periods. The Flower’s teammates have taken notice of his improved play.
“Flower played great last game,” Malkin said. “We’ll just focus in the defensive zone.”
“I’m just happy for him as a teammate,” Crosby noted. “He changed the game Friday night with those saves. You love seeing your goalie have success and make those big saves. He competes hard. He works hard. He definitely made some big saves and was able to help us move forward. That’s great for him and we’re happy for him.”
Getting a work-ethic compliment from Crosby is certainly a notch in confidence belt.
Contributing to Fleury’s success, no doubt, is the team’s use of seven defensemen. The Flyers have a way of wearing down blueliners with their depth and special teams play, but haven't scored at even strength since Game 3. Although coach Bylsma isn’t a fan of dressing seven defensemen, the move has worked in both of the last two games. Many would argue that keeping Paul Martin on the bench hasn’t hurt too much, either.
Saving the best for last is Jordan Staal. Staal has more than made up for an overtime gaffe in Game 1 with six goals, a number that leads all NHL playoff participants.
“He gets the tying goal at a point in the game when there wasn’t a lot in the game,” coach Bylsma noted.” He stepped up and got a big goal. We had some momentum from there and his line ends up getting another goal on an offensive zone play. Huge plays and huge goals for our team, especially in a point in the game when we were behind and the period wasn’t much better than 50-50 and there wasn’t a lot going either way.
They stepped up and came up big. He came up big in other ways, too, in the game. He came up big in the third period, he came up big on the penalty kill. Those were big parts, maybe as big of parts (as Fleury’s performance) to the game for us.”
The Pens-Flyers series started out with plenty of shenanigans but has turned into a hotly-contested playoff series. The whining, manipulating and bullying played a big part early on but it’s all about hockey now and that’s the way it should be.
Notes of Import
- Pittsburgh won Game 5 despite getting zero points from Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.
- Scott Hartnell scored his first goal, a power-play marker, on Friday.
- Not only was Marc-Andre Fleury good in Game, he was lucky. Both Braydon Coburn and Claude Giroux hit posts.
- The Steve Sullivan goal from Kris Letang really exposed Ilya Bryzgalov’s lack of left-to-right lateral movement.
- Rumor has it that demons were seen fleeing CONSOL Energy Center when the final buzzer sounded Friday and the Pens beat Philly for the first time at home in a meaningful game since Mellon Arena closed.
- The team that has scored the first goal has lost every game in the series. Trend or pure happenstance?
- Pascal Dupuis has been shutout in two of the last three games.
- Through five games, the Flyers have scored 11 times in 20 power-play opportunities and three more short-handed. The Pens feature the league’s second-best unit, going 8-for-24 on the man advantage.
- Friday’s third period featured Fleury as the team’s best penalty killer but he got help. The forward unit of Crosby, Dupuis and Craig Adams kept the Flyers pinned on their side of the red line for 30 straight seconds during one effective forecheck.
- Jakub Voracek (8:35), Claude Giroux (9:05), Daniel Briere (9:17) and Hartnell (10:14) all got their sticks into Marc-Andre Fleury’s glove late during a third-period power-play (with specific times listed above). Sidney Crosby apparently isn’t the only player to do that.
- Coming back from a three-game deficit is tough for any team, but could a team have a better captain at the helm than the Penguins do for such an attempt?
Treasure Life & Let's Go Pens!
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