Can the Penguins Beat the Flyers? – Pittsburgh Penguins – PenguinPoop Blog

Can the Penguins Beat the Flyers?

After watching Philadelphia cut through the black and gold like a knife going through a tub of warm butter in Games 1 and 2, the question on everyone’s mind is, “can the Penguins beat the Flyers?” The answer is yes.

But first, a history lesson. Step into my time machine, if you will, and set the date for April 26, 1992. Fresh off a dismal 7-2 Game 4 loss to Washington, the Penguins were hanging onto their playoff lives by an anorexic thread. Fueled by the inspired play of Peter Bondra, Al Iafrate, and the much-despised Dino Ciccarelli, the Capitals had raced to a 3-1 series lead. Worse yet, the Caps were beating the defending Cup champs at their own run-and-gun game.

Sound familiar? It should. It’s precisely the predicament facing our present-day Penguins.

Fortunately, two of the ’92 squad’s most respected members, Mario Lemieux and Ron Francis, approached coach Scotty Bowman with a radical plan.

“Mario came to me the morning of the fifth game and said, ‘Why don’t we surprise them and play the game close to the vest. Tight, tight, tight,’” Bowman recalled. “I’d never pushed a lot of defensive hockey on this team, but since it was Mario who suggested it….”

“We knew if we could play that type of game and wait for our chances, we had the better team and we knew we could win,” Lemieux said.

The defense-first strategy worked like a charm. The Pens surprised the over-confident Capitals by sweeping the final three games of the series, paving the way for a second Stanley Cup.

As the old saying goes, desperate times call for desperate measures. Dan Bylsma should follow Bowman’s lead and switch to a more defensive scheme such as the left wing lock.

The system was developed by the Czechs in the 1970s as a way of defending against the powerhouse Soviet national teams. A forward (usually the left wing) drops back in line with the two defensemen while the other forwards remain high in the defensive zone. The emphasis is on disrupting an opponent’s attack, which ideally creates chances on the counter attack. Since it’s a simple system, it’s fairly easy to implement.

Although it’s admittedly a gamble to change horses at the quarter pole, the Pens have morphed into a one-trick pony, and a broken-down one at that. The coaching staff needs to take the heat off the beleaguered defense—not to mention goalie Marc-Andre Fleury—who’s been hung out to dry more often than a set of linens on wash day.

It’s not as if the Pens don’t have the personnel to adopt a more defensive posture. Craig Adams, Matt Cooke, Pascal Dupuis, and Jordan Staal—to name a few—have filled checking roles. Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Brooks Orpik cut their NHL-teeth playing a left wing lock under Michel Therrien.

Defensive hockey has its rewards, too. Just ask the New York Rangers, who employed the left wing lock to sweep six games with these very same Flyers during the regular season.

Whether Bylsma will consider making such a drastic change is another matter. He seems stubbornly insistent on sticking with his pedal-to-the-metal approach. Indeed, during a recent practice session he repeatedly reinforced the importance of moving forward all the time.

Sometimes, however, the best defense isn’t a good offense. The Pens have proven that during the two gut-wrenching losses to Philly. It’s time to bite the proverbial bullet and make sound defensive play a priority. At this stage the Penguins have nothing to lose and a Stanley Cup to gain.

*Be sure to check out Rick’s new book, “100 Things Penguins Fans Should Know and Do Before They Die” at TriumphBooks.com. It features 296 pages of bios, stories, anecdotes and photos from the team’s colorful past in a compelling, easy-to-read style. Whether you’re a die-hard booster from the days of Jean Pronovost or a big fan of Sid and Geno, this book is a must have for any true Penguins fan.

Don’t forget to check out Rick’s first book, “Total Penguins,” at TriumphBooks.com. A complete and comprehensive book on the team’s rich and storied history, it’s filled with season-by-season summaries, player profiles and stats, bios on coaches, general managers and owners, photos from the “Post-Gazette” archives, and much, much more.

*Be sure to check out Rick Buker’s books,
available at TriumphBooks.com, Amazon.com, and BarnesandNoble.com

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  1. Pen's 4ever's Gravatar Pen's 4ever
    April 15, 2012 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

    We can beat the Flyers, need to hit hit hit, be smarter with the puck, off the boards and out of our zone, all season the D got the puck out quickly.. need the same today. Maybe slow the pace down, Fleury freeze the puck more, intentional… unintentional offsides??

    LET’S GO PEN’S!!!!!!!!

  2. Fred's Gravatar Fred
    April 14, 2012 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

    Max Talbot and Jagr are Ex-Pens not friends,please somebody step up and hit them or better yet KO them,love to see Vitale and Max have a go at it.The Refs are pretty bad 6 men on the ice for the Flyers for 20 seconds not to mention the off side goal,and butt end of the stick to Malkins ribs, They need to play D and cash in on there chances,the Flower must play like a champ and the D most play 60 minutes,no east west crap,north south and more play in there zone.No more shorties,they always come back to kill you. I STILL BELIEVE it can be done.

    • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
      April 15, 2012 at 9:24 am | Permalink

      However they do it, better defensive play is a must if the Pens are going to make a series of it. That includes the forwards, who are so intent on joining the attack (a by-product of Bylsma’s system, I’m afraid) that they forget to take care of business in their own end. Philly’s too good offensively to leave Fleury and our d-men all alone.

      I agree—the shorthanded goals are KILLERS. They’ve got to keep Crosby off the point on the power play. The Flyers exploit him every time. And, as you pointed out, the east-west stuff is poison, too. The main culprit there is Malkin. Unfortunately, when Geno doesn’t score he tends to get too fancy and tries to beat teams 1-on-5. That leads to turnovers, which we can ill afford against a quick-strike team like Philly.

      Better net-front presence would help, too. Even though we scored five goals in Game 2, we didn’t get enough traffic in front of Bryzgalov. I’d like to see more center drive, especially from a big body like Staal. When he uses his size and takes the puck to the net, good things happen. Again, north-south … keep it simple.

  3. Cindy's Gravatar Cindy
    April 14, 2012 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

    I sure hope you have Dan Bylsma on your speed dial….lol. I’m not ready to give up on the Pens so easy…..I believe they can win this series and go all the way to the cup……GO PENS!!!!!

    • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
      April 15, 2012 at 8:44 am | Permalink

      I’m sure Dan reads ALL my PenguinPoop stuff (BIG lol).

      I just hope he can figure out a way to tighten things up defensively. The Pens aren’t going to beat the Flyers in a track meet—they’re too fast and skilled. Our best chance is catch the Philly d-men pinching (they join the rush all the time) and score on the counter attack. However, the Pens must shore up their defensive play to do so. We sure could use a big game from Fleury, too.


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