If you don’t watch Mad Men and playoff hockey, I’m afraid I don’t have too much time for you right now. Spoiler: Peter Campbell got his ass handed to him last night on Mad Men. The general consensus around the offices of Sterling, Cooper, Draper Price was that Campbell deserved the beating and the majority of the sympathy fell to the guy who did the pummeling. The only difference between the Mad Men episode and the Flyers game is that Sidney Crosby’s teammates jump to his defense when he acts like a spoiled (wildly offensive noun). Pete Campbell’s co-workers just stood around and let it happen. So on the scale of being insufferable, I suppose Campbell still has Crosby beat–but just by a nose.
I assume everyone has been caught up on the details by now. Two more come from behind wins for the Flyers. A total of 16 goals in two games for the Orange and Black. Dueling hat tricks from Cooter and Claude in game two. The total loss of control by the refs in game three. I don’t remember a playoff series ever starting off in such an unexpected way. What’s made it so strange…
1. The play of Marc-Andre Fleury. The Penguins goalie has been horrific. 0-3, 6.34 GAA, .798 Save Percentage. Those numbers shouldn’t be possible, even for a small sample like three games. Fleury has actually made a handful of great in this series, but the Flyers attack, which has been coming in waves, has turned the Pittsburgh goalie into a quivering pile of mush. If the Pens weren’t scoring their fair share of goals, he likely would have been pulled long before game 3. The Pens need to patch this guy together for game 4.
2. Flyers winning without dominate goalie play. Bryz has had his moments. He’s been hung out to dry by his defense on a few occasions, and kept the Flyers in game two with a couple of spectacular saves. On the other hand, he let in some comically soft goals in game 3, and the Flyers could have easily won that game 8-2. If the Flyers get by the Penguins, they’re not going to keep scoring 6 goals a game, so Bryz will have to rein in the mental lapses.
3. Play of Flyers Rookies. The Flyers are young. It’s my favorite thing about the team. Rookies like Matt Read, Sean Couturier, and Brayden Schenn have big responsibilities with this team and have all year. Toward the end of the season, in the case of Matt Read especially, you wondered if the long season was starting to grind on these guys. All those three have done is combine for 6 goals and 6 assists in 3 games. Throw in Courturier’s handling of Malkin and you could make a case he’s been the team’s MVP so far.
4. The Magic Time Out Lives. I’ve never seen a coach call as many timeouts in the opening periods as Peter Laviolette. He calls them when the Flyers are down, he calls them when they’re about to go on a 5-on-3 advantage and they always seem to work. Lavy’s tirades still seem to have a positive impact on this team, which is always a good sign.
The other issue with this series and the other match-ups around the NHL is the presence of the cheap shot, a strain of play that has crossed over the line to dirty. It started with Shea Weber and continued through the weekend. Sometimes you can go a whole playoff series without seeing a fight, but the gloves have been dropping all over the place and it’s often been on the heels of some very questionable hits. While hockey die-hards are loving the old school action, I’m afraid we’re on the verge of seeing a serious injury that could turn a series or seriously hinder a team’s chances of making a run.
There’s no way to make this anything but a homer’s viewpoint, but in my opinion the Penguins spent the last 6 or 8 minutes of Sunday’s game skating around trying to injure Flyers’ players. Sean Courturier was the first target and then Claude Giroux was the victim of a wild run. Unlike their battle at the end of the regular season, Peter Laviolette and the Flyers did a pretty good job of keeping their composure, but the Pens keep coming and taking every chance to turn a legal hit into a questionable one. It appears the Flyers escaped the game unscathed, but I don’t like their chances to do so again if they end up with another big lead in what would be a clinching win.
It’ll be interesting to see if the Pens face any punishment for their actions in game three. It’s pretty clear the referees have little control on the ice, so we’ll see if the NHL can do anything to control the reckless play with some suspensions. Otherwise, the teams moving forward might be more banged up than usual.