Philadelphia Flyers: Battle of Pennsylvania ends in heartbreak with loss to Penguins

PITTSBURGH, PA - MARCH 25: Nolan Patrick
PITTSBURGH, PA - MARCH 25: Nolan Patrick /

With the biggest game of the year for both teams from Pennsylvania, the game was tightly contested between the Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday.

With the Philadelphia Flyers losing a heartbreaker against the Arch rival Pittsburgh Penguins, the frustration hit a whole new level when the recent game switched to golf during the overtime period. So imagine the complete mind boggling anger I experienced when Bubba Watson came on the screen in the middle of overtime and never left so I was unable to finish the game.

Now, I’m Canadian, but the game was on your most basic cable here and I’m assuming the United States as well. You’re trying to sell the game (still) in the U.S. and you switch to Golf (not a fan), where discussing Watson’s choice of shirt and cologne and Tiger’s big come back for at least 15 minutes. This wouldn’t have been missed by the most ardent fan, would it? T

Words can’t even describe the high level of frustration surrounding the network since, as I remember my father sharing a story about CBS and the “Heidi game” fiasco in 1968. No, I didn’t witness it myself but he cursed it till his death.

Let’s give credit to the Flyers for a strong road game

A good start to the game was nullified by another strong middle frame for the Penguins. Give credit for the final push to tie the game, which must be acknowledged, and at least thought of as a bit of a statement. However, not that, much though as the overtime session exposed Philadelphia’s weakness (watching the Penguins play). Matchups that didn’t work well through the first 60 minutes were not adjusted properly for the overtime session.

Dave Hakstol should’ve probably went with the Claude Giroux, Shayne Gostisbere, and Jakub Voracek trio, since their puck possession would have worked much better. Perhaps hindsight is 20/20,  but against the Penguins trio that started the overtime, I would have.

Philadelphia’s second shift I still haven’t seen, but for Wayne Simmonds,  Nolan Patrick, and the ghost to be on the ice for the goal, well I either missed a shift or they were the second shift, in which case was Travis Sanheim going to get a chance with G and Jake? Or was veteran presence like (cough) Anderew MacDonald going to screw it up? It’s all a mystery thanks to the television switch.

So really my question would be, once Pittsburgh’s big three were off the ice, what was Hakstol’s biggest matchup worry? I mean yes, their bottom six is pretty good, but not great or they would be atop of the league. Sure, we miss Michael Raffl in this situation, but Jordan Weal and Scott Laughton would’ve made a good pair with Provy for the rest of the first shift. Too often, the Flyers head coach is being out coached, and this could be the glaring difference in advancing past the first round of the playoffs.

The point gained for the Flyers was highly significant

A point gained is a point earned, and the Flyers did earn (deserved) at least that much. They won the advanced stats war for the most part and had a few more high danger scoring opportunities than the Penguins but couldn’t finish. They can beat the Pens, but let’s hope it doesn’t have to be in the first round of the playoffs.

The matchup with the Washington Capitals will be a favorable one, and one we all want rather than a Tampa Bay Lightning or the enemy from up state. These final six games will determine the final seedings, and with three road games and three home ones, the Flyers are in a tricky position.

Without sitting back and being able to choose that first Wild Card seed as Washington is likely to be first in the division, they could be on the outside looking in with the Florida Panthers still in the hunt and New Jersey Devils to jockey with.

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Winning outright could get them the No. 2 seed with home ice against most likely Pittsburgh with New Jersey unlikely to get that No. 3 seed, which would setup the rematch from 2012. Fans from both teams know how that turned out (most exciting playoff round in many years), but these teams, especially the Penguins, have changed quite a bit.

The Penguins don’t have much of an edge to their game as they did in 2012, as the departure of Ryan Reeves resulted in a more disciplined brand of hockey, which Voracek found out after cross-checking Carl Hagelin with no retaliation from Hagelin.

That’s the difference in a nut-shell between the two teams. They are slightly deeper in the forward positions and experience on the back end. I think the Flyers big three (Giroux, Couturier, and Voracek) can match their three (Crosby, Malkin, Kessel) without a doubt.

A hard-nosed guy like Simmonds, who the Penguins don’t have, could be an “X” factor in a long series, but ultimately it would come down to discipline and the on ice officials doing their job even remotely well would determine the final outcome. The Flyers were one of the better teams at drawing more penalties than taking, but the playoffs are a different beast. Let’s cross some fingers for a first-round series against the Capitals and wait and see.