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March 24, 2019
Is It Over Yet?
by Michael Menser Dell, Editor-in-Chief
The Penguins went all Ivan Drago on the Flyers' sorry ass last night, whoopin' 'em 4-1 in front of the Philadelphia faithful. The Birds are now up 3-0 in the series. But to be fair, I'm sure if these two clubs played each other 100 times, the Flyers would win at least one. Maybe.
Philly wasn't going to win this series anyway, but losing Kimmo Timonen and now Braydon Coburn, whose left eye is still swollen shut from catching a puck in Game Two, is simply too much to overcome. The Penguins are a whole different class. The Flyers simply aren't ready to compete at this level yet. They will be someday, but not today.
The Penguins just trapped the Flyers to death. It was a defensive clinic. They allowed only 18 shots on goal, and I can't recall more than one or two quality scoring chances.
Yet even though the Pens thoroughly dominated the contest, it was still just 2-1 until Ryan Malone swept a backhander behind Marty Biron at 9:58 of the third. Once again, the great Steve Downie played an important role in securing defeat.
After making a nice play to steal the puck from Petr Sykora outside the Pittsburgh stripe, Downie barged into the zone and cut all the way to the left wing boards. Even though the Birds had four guys back, Downie opted against getting the puck deep and instead tried to use his amazing passing skills to thread a cross-ice feed to Jeff Carter coming late. Bright boy that Downie.
Evgeni Malkin said spaceba and jumped all over Downie's mistake, racing up ice and threatening the slot with a series of mystifying moves. His attempted pass to Malone in front got cut by a backchecking Sami Kapanen, but the puck came to Sykora trailing the play. The Czech sniper threw a quick backhander into Biron's pads, letting Malone pounce on the rebound for the back-breaker.
As Malone was burying the Flyers, Downie came back and blasted Sykora with a late hit. It was a clean hit, just about five seconds too late. No penalty was called, and Sykora seemed okay, but that pretty much epitomizes Flyers hockey. A boneheaded play at one end, bad defensives coverage at the other, but hey, wasn't that a big hit?
Yeehaw! Broad Street Bullies! Yeehaw! Three-oh, Buttercups. Three-oh.
But one moment that may get overlooked happened in the second period when the Penguins were still just up 2-1. Scottie Upshall was in the box, and the Birds were looking to drop the hammer on the power play. But in a frightening flashback from Game Two, Mike Richards swiped the biscuit and appeared home free for another shorthanded breakaway goal to tie the score. That's when Sergei Gonchar went to work.
Gonchar chased down Richards and dove to the ice to poke the puck away just as Philly's future captain was about to pull the trigger. It was brilliant. I didn't think Gonchar had it in him.
Marian Hossa: Hossa's first period goal was a beauty. He just skated right up the gut, freaking Jeff Carter at the Philly line and then lulling Lasse Kukkonen to sleep with some scintillating stickwork before lacing a low wrister behind a befuddled Biron. It was spectacular. He added an empty-netter to give him five goals in his last four games.
Sidney Crosby: He got two rather soft assists in the first, but Kid Crosby was solid all night, darting around the Philly zone at will. Still, he has to shoot the puck more. He passed up numerous scoring opportunities, and it frustrated me to no end. Pull the trigger already. He's way too unselfish.
Sergei Gonchar: The play on Richards could have saved the game. He also logged a team-high 24:41 and added an assist.
Mike Richards: I love the Mike Richards. This kid's what hockey's all about. He had another gritty, gutty game. He's this generation's Ronnie Francis, only tougher.
Jeff Carter: Yeah, he kind of sucked. Hossa abused him on the second goal, and his backchecking on the Malone tally was suspect at best. But he can fire a puck. I've been impressed with Carter's shot all series, and he leads the Flyers with 17 shots on goal, so I just wanted to mention it before he gets swept into oblivion.