Intensity. Passion. Pride. These are the adjectives that come to mind when you think of the Flyers and Penguins cross state rivalry. The only team that had any resembelance of these on Thursday night was the team from Pittsburgh. The Penguins fought hard and pulled it out in a shootout, 2-1.
The first five minutes of the game started very convincingly for the Orange and Black. They seemed to establish a forecheck and had their feet moving pretty well. That all came crashing down very quickly as the team in Black and Gold established their dominance.
Mike Richards got the home team started, and finished, with his 21st of the season. After James van Riemsdyk charged up the left wing, he threw a backhand pass in front. The puck pinballed around off of Richards and eventually over Fleury's shoulder for the first goal of the game. Bobrovsky came up very big on several chances, which would be a theme for the evening, and the period ended, 1-0.
The Penguins began the second on the power play. Andreas Nodl was called for interference on MA Fleury. Definitely an oscar worthy performance by Fleury to draw the call. Nonetheless, Pittsburgh capitalized on the man advantage to draw even 1-1. Tyler Kennedy, aka Man bear pig, took a cross ice pass from Kunitz and fired a beautiful wrister past Bobrovsky. It was a perfect shot. On this night that was all that was going to beat the young Russian.
As the period wore on, the Penguins started showing the Philadelphia faithful exactly why they have been hanging around atop the Eastern Conference. Despite missing a good portion of their team, and talent, the Penguins are finding ways to win. The second ended with the score even at 1 and the Flyers being outshot 20-15.
"We talked about coming out hard after the second, we just couldn't get it going" -Andrej Meszaros
Well that is the understatement of the century. The Flyers failed to register a shot in the third until late in the stanza. The Penguins showed more of the hard work and determination that this Dan Bylsma led squad is known for. They carried most of the play and Bobrovsky continued to be outstanding. The period ended still deadlocked 1-1.
On to a shootout. Again. The Flyers found themselves in the extra, extra session for the 4th consecutive game. This one looked better than the last, but ended with the same result for the Flyers. After lackluster efforts from Richards and Giroux went begging. Chris Kunitz dribbled a puck five hole past Bobrovsky and sunk the Flyers, 2-1.
Well fans. There you have it. Although not enough can be said about Sergei Bobrovsky's performance, there are a lot of negatives to take away from this game. For those of you who have been living under a rock the past couple of months the Penguins are currently without Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Matt Cooke, Brooks Orpik, and several other role players. So how do they keep winning with AHL talent? You witnessed it Thursday night, hard work, determination, and a willingness to not make excuses but make plays.
The Flyers, however, continue to make excuse after excuse as to why their play has been substandard at best. Why don't we take a page from the Penguins playbook, just shut up and play hockey. They refuse to be outworked, outhustled, or outplayed. The Penguins have now pulled themselves within 4, well now 2 (as I'm writing this they won a shootout against NJ), of the Flyers for Atlantic division supremacy. Ok boys, is this enough to wake you the hell up or not? Now I need a shower after saying that many nice things about the Penguins.
There is no rest for the weary as the Flyers travel to Long Island to take on the scrappy Islanders. They then turn right around and head back to the Wells Fargo center to take on the Bruins Sunday evening.
Saturday night features the fifth of six meetings between the Flyers and Islanders. The Flyers lead the season series 4-0 and are in desperate need of a win to stave off the charging Eastern conference. The Islanders are 12-5-4 since the all star break and have been playing good hockey lately. Rookie Michael Grabner has been sensational. His speed could be tough for the Flyers defenseman to handle. I'd expect to see as much of Timonen and Coburn out there against him as Lavy can get. They need these two points badly. But I think they need a solid 60 minutes just as bad. Let's hope the Flyers don't look past a more than capable New York squad and bring the pain Saturday night!
As always, LETS GO FLYERS!!!!!!!!!!