I don’t know what it is about the Pens and Flyers playing one another that normal hockey strategy and game play flies out the window. Defense and goaltending cease to exist.
The Battle of Pennsylvania is one of the top sports rivalries around. Not just hockey, but in all of sports in my opinion. The hate flows through the veins and underground of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. It is between the teams, the players, and the fans and man do we all love to make it personal!
Apart from an epic collapse that we are all sadly used to, the game was well…exciting. It was what hockey should be and it was the loudest and most active the fans at Consol Energy Center has been in far too long. If you didn’t have fun watching that game, then shame on you. It was bloody, it was fast, the officiating was abysmal… The Pens didn’t walk away with two points (sadly), but both teams gave everyone what they want and expect and more games should be that intense where your heart is in your throat for the last ten minutes of the game because seriously: who the hell can even predict what is going to happen when these two teams meet any more.
All the atmosphere aside, the Pens cannot continue to melt down against this team and need to gain some semblence of composure. All reason flies out the window when the Pens play the Flyers. It isn’t like there is just one defining moment that changed the game’s momentum or could turn the tide. It’s not just one thing you can look at and say, “Okay, that could have been improved upon.” When they go down, they bleed from every orphus. The defense is asleep. The goalie is asleep. No one stays in any sort of logical position. They don’t play their game.
Tomas Vokoun, the goalie who has shown Pens fans what it is like to watch a goalie maintain his composure fell right into the typical Pens vs Flyers format and allowed some truly terrible goals. However, two of the goals probably should not have happened because the refs swallowed their whistles. The play should have been whistled dead twice when the puck wasn’t visible. Hell. On the one goal, no less than 3 Penguins were physically trapped inside of the net and there was goalie interference. Evgeni Malkin also took a roughing penalty after Sean Couturier cross checked him five or six times without being called on it. I can’t blame him for that.
Beau Bennett played only 8:03 and Robert Bortuzzo just 8:59. Bennett is still getting his feet in the NHL, but the kid needs more ice time. In his third game, he is still without a point, but he has been a great playmaker and made some strong defensive moves as well. Stunningly enough, Sidney Crosby had the second most minutes on the team with 27. That’s 5-6 minutes above where his ice time usually hangs around. I’m not sure what Bylsma was trying to accomplish with this.
Last night was also arguably Brooks Orpik’s worst game of the season.
To the Pens credit, they started off the game strong and continued a 9-game power play goal scoring streak with power play goals from both Malkin and James Neal and the penalty kill remained strong. Late in the third, they battled hard and maintained strong puck possession, making up for their goal deficit and tying the game with a goal by Brandon Sutter, prepared to take it to over time. It just wasn’t enough though. With only a little over a minute to go in regulation, Jakub Voracek put the Flyers up and the Pens didn’t recover.
I loved the pace and excitement of this game, but the Pens need to learn to control their emotions more. You can play an intense game without giving in to every little incident and tactic that the Flyers use to egg them on. A few bad calls on the ice you can do nothing about, but you can still maintain control and composure. That is a choice.
The Pens play the Flyers two more times this season. They won the first game by sticking to their game, maintaining control, and playing Penguins hockey. Let’s hope that reemerges.