Figuratively, of course, but if the Pens knot this series at 3-3 this afternoon, the Flyers won’t have what it takes to finish the series back here in the ‘burgh. Why? I think Phil hit on the #1 reason in his last post The Penguins Are Now in the Flyers’ Heads: they are showing tell-tale signs of being a shell-shocked team on the verge of absolute shambles. And that was after our first victory! Pile on Game Five’s 3-2 win, and whatever the Pens do today, and you have three times the heart-break and finger-pointing.
In my mind, there are three things the Pens need to do today to make sure we see a largely ceremonial Game Seven:
1. Defense – Dan Bylsma changed things up and brought the Pens D seven-strong against a Flyers offense that he knows has a lot of fire power. Fortunately for him, the Pens are blessed with even more scoring capability, so the extra defensive presence didn’t detract from the Pens ability to bury the puck. I hate to add this, but it’s already out there… Paul Martin’s absence is being felt in too many positive ways for him to be thinking that he’ll be rushed back to the ice again in this series.
2. Rebound Control – This has always been my greatest criticism of Fleury. His acrobatic saves that all too often leave fat rebounds in the slot that inevitably end up in the back of the net. Even his routine saves sometimes end up that way. MAF was pretty much velcro last game. Couple strong defense with a lack of second opportunities (which also means clean back checking), and the Flyers can’t score on chances they don’t have.
3. Pressure – At certain points in this series it felt like there were two bad guys for every Penguin on the ice. The Flyers were absolutely smothering no matter where the puck was, and it was frustrating to watch. I can’t imagine what it was like to play in. The Pens assumed that role in Game Five, and they need to again. Tenacious forechecking, clean back checking, and smart coverage will win the individual battles that eventually win the game.
I know there are no guarantees. Ever. But as I said before, the Pens are the more complete team of these two, which includes heart and cohesion. If we are good (and a little lucky?) enough to come home for Game Seven, the Flyers don’t stand a chance.