Flyers-Penguins: Postgame Review
It was certainly a fight to the finish and a battle to earn just one point in the standings, but the Flyers ultimately were on the wrong end of a result against the Penguins again.
The Penguins completed a season sweep on the Flyers with a 5-4 overtime decision on Sunday afternoon, as the Flyers continued to slowly but surely move closer to a playoff spot, albeit with more performance issues creeping in.
Let's hit it with our Postgame Review.
- The Goalie Carousel Continues - Paging Carter Hart? At this point, maybe.The Flyers obviously can't just throw Hart into action with the WHL Playoffs in full swing and wouldn't given he has no professional experience, but if these last few weeks have taught us anything, it's the desire the Flyers have to obtain and mold a true No. 1 goalie.The Flyers tried to keep their playoff run on the rails by acquiring Petr Mrazek from the Detroit Red Wings one week before the trade deadline. For that week, everything went according to plan. Mrazek arrived and sat on the bench for the first game that same night while Alex Lyon went in and got the win. Mrazek started the next three games after and won them all, the last being a shutout win in a shootout.But since then, it's been a disaster. The Flyers still have Michal Neuvirth and Brian Elliott recovering from injury. Mrazek hasn't been able to stop a beach ball at times. Lyon has been serviceable, but easily proved that playing against the elite playoff teams in the East isn't an option for him either in his first real test against such a team.
Now, Mrazek came into Sunday's game and did an admirable job. He certainly made several saves that were critical to the game getting to overtime. But he also had bad positioning on Pittsburgh's fourth goal by Sidney Crosby and was turned around on the game-winning goal by Bryan Rust.
Ultimately, goaltending remains the biggest concern for the Flyers. There are plenty more surrounding the team, but that is the one that is most noticeable.
- Fast Start - For a change, this was exactly the kind of start the Flyers need to have on a regular basis. They were fast, active, hard on the puck and generating chances constantly.One thing that was great about the Flyers start was the emphasis to active the defensemen in the play from the beginning. It resulted in two first-period goals. But it seemed the Flyers abandoned that mindset as the game progressed, notably after Pittsburgh's two early goals in the second changed the momentum.Getting out to an early lead and playing the first 20 minutes strong was a step in the right direction for a team that needs a strong start every night in the playoffs to even be remotely competitive.
- Fatigue Setting In? - The Flyers certainly ask a lot of 20-year-old Ivan Provorov as a No. 1 defenseman, so it's understandable that he will have his moments and still make some mistakes. Lately, it just seems that Provorov is starting to show the signs of fatigue late in the season.This was one of Provorov's worst games this season. He was caught flat-footed on Pittsburgh's first goal. The Flyers as a whole left Patric Hornqvist uncovered at the front of the net on Pittsburgh's second goal. Provorov was also on the ice for Crosby's goal.Lately, it's been a struggle for Provorov, despite a solid season of growth and a test in playing some high-end minutes.In general, the Flyers also struggled to keep up with Pittsburgh's speed as the game moved along. The Flyers may have finished with 45 shots on goal, but still spend too much time looking for a perfect play or a fool-proof set-up. Pittsburgh just goes in with reckless abandon, shooting from all angles and areas and trying to get bounces, mishaps, rebounds, everything. The speed and efficiency in which they do that is what has made them so successful.
- Weal's Up - One player who stood out in this game was Jordan Weal. Weal had given the Flyers some decent production at the end of last season, so having just seven goals and 17 points entering this game has certainly been a disappointment.Weal was instrumental in setting up both of the first-period goals and scored a power-play goal to tie the game in the second for his first career three-point game. If it is a sign of things to come from Weal, the added production would be welcome for the Flyers.
- Got Their Number - There was a time when the Flyers-Penguins rivalry just tilted in favor of the Flyers at all times. Trips to Pittsburgh were the opportunity to put a hurting on the cross-state rivals.Pittsburgh just has the Flyers number right now and have for several seasons. Crosby has tremendous lifetime numbers against the Flyers and this season alone had nine points in four games against Philly. The Flyers just don't have an answer for Pittsburgh's overall speed, skill and talent.It is the different between being a back-to-back champion and a team on the rise trying to build a championship contender. The Flyers have pieces in place both at the NHL level and in the minors and junior ranks. Pittsburgh has the total package -- the goaltending, the skill forwards, the defensive core.The Flyers have played two very competitive games against Pittsburgh this season that required overtime, but came up short both times.
Sunday's game, much like their early March meeting, served as a possible playoff preview and the possibility certainly remains despite the result. That said, a playoff series between the two teams would likely be a relatively short one. The Flyers don't have the lineup that can match Pittsburgh's in a playoff series.