Flyers-Penguins: Game 2 Postgame Review
Game 2 proved to be a friendly reminder that a playoff series is just that.
This was a Flyers team with something to prove to those who doubted them after an embarrassing Game 1.
There is no erasing what happened in Game 1, but the Flyers performance in Game 2 showed this team has the capability to keep up with the Penguins and it came in a big game that gets the series back to Philadelphia all tied up.
Let's hit it with our Postgame Review.
- On the Rebound - Within the disaster of a performance that was Game 1, so many of the Flyers veteran players struggled and failed to play smart hockey.
In Game 2, those players were a big part of the difference.
Sean Couturier had a three-point game. Claude Giroux was a key leader on the offensive side without having much to show for it on the scoresheet. Wayne Simmonds had a lot of extra jump to his game. Andrew MacDonald had arguably his best game of the season. Oh, and there was the goalie too, but more on him in a moment.
The bottom line is that this was a game that was show up or show yourself the door. If the Flyers wanted to have any chance to coming out as victors in a seven-game series against the defending back-to-back Stanley Cup champions, they needed to find another gear, get more responsible with puck control and in their defensive play and make it happen.
There were parts of the game that weren't pretty. Sure, Pittsburgh out-shot the Flyers the whole way, had many qualities looks and there were still egregious turnovers that led to opportunities. That's going to happen and as long as you limit those chances and find a way to recover, you can be a threat in the series.
Ultimately, one of the biggest questions going into the series -- which only loomed larger after Game 1 -- was if the Flyers could find a way to keep up with the Penguins in even one game, let alone a series. The Flyers answered that with a resounding yes on Friday night.
- Moose Saves the Day - There were stretches of the second period in a 2-0 game where the Flyers needed Brian Elliott to be their best player. Throughout the game, he arguably was just that.
Elliott got plenty of help -- the Penguins hit three posts in the game and there was Sidney Crosby's wide shot with a wide-open net at the end of the second -- but a 34-save victory is certainly as big a bounce-back game as you can have.
The real game-changer was Elliott's save on Crosby on a breakaway. It's been said several times, both by Dave Hakstol and by the media gathered to watch and analyze these games, that Elliott or any goaltender for that matter need to come up with more timely saves. It doesn't get more timely than midway through a 2-0 game with the best player in the world bearing down on a breakaway after a turnover by your captain.
Elliott made the save, the Flyers got out of the second up 2-0 and scored two more goals before Elliott was finally beaten by Patric Hornqvist.
Even when Hornqvist scored, there was an uneasy feeling. It was the last half a period in a 4-1 game and one goal could still dramatically change the way this game could end. Elliott was much better tracking the puck and credit the Flyers defense for allowing him to have a clear sightline for most of the night.
- Penalty Kill Steps Up - The key to the series was to stay out of the penalty box against the NHL's top power play. The Flyers ended up having to kill off four Pittsburgh power plays in the game. That's still far too many, but they successfully killed off each one.
It was a big night for the special teams to step up. At the end of the night, the Flyers were a perfect 4-for-4 on the penalty kill and 2-for-3 on the power play. There's the difference in the game.
The Flyers took a couple unnecessary penalties and a couple that were ticky-tack calls, but this is the playoffs and the teams that grind their way through the game tend to come out on top. The Flyers spent 5:37 of the second period on the penalty kill. There were another two minutes in the second that were 4-on-4. That gave the Flyers just barely more than half the period to try to on the offensive attack at 5-on-5.
By surviving that portion of the night with a gritty effort, the Flyers showed then they were playing with much more heart and determined to get the series back to Philadelphia all tied up.
- The Kids Are Alright - It was hard for any of the kids to show first-game jitters when the Penguins just kept shoving goals down the Flyers throats in Game 1. In Game 2, the stage didn't look too big for any of them.
Nolan Patrick had a huge game. His net-front presence on the power play was a key factor to the opening goal by Shayne Gostisbehere, and he was rewarded for some good forechecking with a goal on the power play in the third period.
Travis Konecny had a beautiful tally off the rush for his first career playoff goal, using his speed to get positioning and quick hands to elevate the puck past Matt Murray.
Ivan Provorov may have been the best of the group. With the amount of penalty kill time the Flyers had to endure, Provorov played 27:30 of ice time, had two assists, three hits and was a plus-2 as well. If you need any reason to believe this kid is going to be a stud defenseman, watch this performance over.
- Coming Home - Two years ago, when the Flyers played the Washington Capitals in the playoffs, the aftermath of Game 2 felt a lot like Game 1 in this series -- embarrassed, deflated and ultimately down 2-0 in the series.
Imagine if the Flyers were to go into Game 3 of that series in a tie instead of down 2-0. In this series, it would have created even more doubt. Which is why what the Flyers did in Game 2 is so important to the series.
For one, you guarantee a return trip to Pittsburgh for Game 5. More importantly, you come home with life in the series.
A 1-1 series leaves room for a lot of possibilities, and playing on home ice means your fans and your building can be involved in the act.
While the Flyers had a lot of success in Pittsburgh in the days when PPG Paints Arena opened, they haven't had much success against the Penguins recently, period. Returning home in a 1-1 tie is going to make Wells Fargo Center one heck of a destination for Game 3. Sunday's atmosphere is sure to be electric with fans now knowing the Flyers have a chance to claim the series lead that afternoon.