The Flyers lost Game 1 of their their 1st round series against the Penguins, in disappointing fashion last night, 4-1. The Flyers were completely overmatched on the ice in this game, a game in which the Penguins took control of early.
The Penguins took a 1-0 lead early in the first on a power play goal by Crosby, which set the tone for the game. They took a 2-0 lead in the 2nd period, and proceeded to score two more in the 3rd period to make it 4-0 before the Flyers got on the board with a late power play goal by Simon Gagne. The Penguins pretty much controlled this game from start to finish. They had more shots, and more opportunities. They won almost twice as many faceoffs as the Flyers, and they had a lot more takeaways than giveaways. The Flyers were the opposite having many turn giveaways than takeaways. The play in the neutral zone was a glaring difference between these two teams, and an area in which the Flyers will need to improve quickly, if they want to have any chance in this series. The Penguins were able to glide through the neutral zone with ease, and carry the puck into the Flyers zone. That enabled the Penguins to turn normal rushes through the neutral zone into scoring chances. The Penguins were also able to keep the puck in the Flyers zone when they got it in, and generate scoring opportunities that way as well. By keeping the puck in the Flyers zone so much, this allowed the Penguins to get so many takeaways, and force the Flyers into penalties, which the Penguins took advantage of.
The Flyers on the other hand could not move the puck through the neutral zone. When they did, it was often with crisp passing, but was never able to set up any sustained offensive pressure. The Flyers did not spend too much time in the Penguins zone at all until late in the game. The chances that the Flyers did get went off the post or just off the Flyers players stick, and Fleury made the saves he has to make. The opposite of the Penguins, by not spending time in the Penguins zone, the Flyers were not able to get into their cycling game down low, or force the Penguins into too many penalties. Players like Danny Briere need to start actually playing, and get the puck deep, and work the forechecking game.
Unfortunately, with the speed and skill that the offensive players have on the Penguins, the Flyers are going to have to find a way to combat that in this series, and find a way quickly. The Flyers have not been playing good hockey for the past month, and you wonder if John Stevens will be able to get anything out of this team, or if he no longer can motivate them. The Flyers did lose the first game of their series last year in the playoffs against both the Capitals and the Canadiens, and came back to win both of those series. Either way you look at it, a loss is a loss, no matter how badly they played. The Penguins were at home, and were supposed to win this game. If the Flyers can find a way to take Game 2, they take home ice away from the Penguins. That, however, is easier said than done.