PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Penguins by virtue of two straight Stanley Cups are grizzled veterans. They are talented, deep and have developed a killer instinct. Wednesday, the Philadelphia Flyers experienced the Penguins multi-wave forecheck attack and the Penguins next-level intensity. The Flyers didn’t have an answer.
The Penguins scored. Scored again. And again. And again. And again. And for good measure, Sidney Crosby scored his second goal of the game midway through the third period just in case the Flyers wanted to build momentum for Game 2. Later in the third period, for a little extra salt.Crosby completed the natural hat trick.
In Game 1, the Flyers were not a match and not because they were flat or ill-prepared. The Flyers were not a match for the Penguins because the Penguins are better in nearly every facet of the game. After the Flyers battled back in the first period, the Penguins counter attacked and extended their lead.
Later in the first period, the Flyers tried to push again. Evgeni Malkin skated past Shayne Gostisbehere and roofed a backhand over Flyers goalie Brian Elliott. The Penguins ended the opening period up 3-0 and didn’t let up in the second period. Or the third.
Carl Hagelin: A
Hagelin nearly forechecked the Flyers into submission. He scored from in front of the net after his line created turnovers–plural–in the Flyers zone. Hagelin assisted on Evgeni Malkin’s first-period goal and was credited with X turnovers.
The Penguins have learned Hagelin has three speeds: First half of the season, second half, and playoffs. The playoff gear is one reason they’re chasing history.
Kris Letang: A-
Letang added pressure, early. He pinched deep into the Flyers zone and it was his rebound which Bryan Rust buried for the first goal.
Letang was active, but wisely so.
Letang’s line was: one assist, three shots, two shot attempts, one giveaway and two blocked shots. Letang was efficient and an asset.
Sidney Crosby: B
I know. Natural hat trick. Swatted one out of mid-air over a defenseman and Elliott. I know. I’m being too hard on Crosby.
Until the three-goal outburst, my notes circled 87 for a few turnovers or intercepted passes. One thing which the Flyers did well was take away Crosby’s passing lanes, especially cross-ice avenues.
What makes Crosby the best in the game is that he adjusted. He went from playmaker to finisher.
Ok, I just talked myself into it. Crosby: A.
Penguins D: A
The Penguins defense held the Flyers to 24 shots. They were in position, they competed and they moved the puck. Memory serves only one bad pinch.
Chad Ruhwedel had six blocked shots. The Penguins defensive corps blocked 17 shots, and the team blocked 24.
The Flyers, of course, had a few chances but not many. Perhaps if Scott Laughton did not fan on a glorious chance in the first period, the Flyers may have gained confidence and the game may have been different. However, the more likely result of Laughton burying the puck would have been a less lopsided Penguins triumph.
The Flyers eventually went quietly and the Penguins back end did a good job of taking away important space.
Jake Guentzel: A
Where has that Jake Guentzel been? One goal, three assists. He played well in the defensive zone.
Grading on the curve, the Penguins third line again yielded more shots than it took. Kessel flew the zone a couple times too.
It wasn’t a bad night for the crew, but compared to the Penguins domination, the Flyers made some headway against them. So, they get the bad grade but even that feels a little bit like a stretch.
Flyers Forwards: D
Laughton missed a sure goal. And the Flyers missed the net on several other chances. The Flyers forwards will have to create zone pressure in order to create the space for the trailing defensemen. They will have to find a way to wrestle the puck from the Penguins and convert chances. Or, this could be over by next Wednesday.