Flyers post-mortem: finding an appropriate level of concern

Justin K. Aller

The Pittsburgh Penguins are suddenly slumping after a 2-1 loss to rival Philadelphia Flyers.

The Pittsburgh Penguins left a few plays on the ice, and Ray Emery helped the Philadelphia Flyers hold on last night. Emery was great, stopping 31 of 32 shots, including a Sidney Crosby breakaway and made the saves of the game as time was expiring in the second period when he twice denied Crosby from point blank range with a pair of nice saves.

For the Pens, it’s frustrating because they “left a few out there” as the old expression goes. In addition to Crosby’s chances, the power play went 1 for 4 in 7:38 of play and only generated 5 shots on goal. A couple of key chances, like when Kris Letang got the puck with seemingly an open net but then couldn’t hit the target still stand out. There was also some lackadaisical play that allowed a really bad short-handed shot against and almost generated a couple of chances for the Flyers. Brooks Orpik snuck into the slot in the third period and Evgeni Malkin fed him a beautiful pass from behind the net that had Emery caught deep in the crease, but Orpik missed the net.

Defensively, the lapses were there too. While only allowing 21 shots (and blocking 12, including Tanner Glass bravely giving up his body for 3 rapid fire blocks in one quick sequence), the Pens didn’t look sharp at times. Robert Bortuzzo slow-played a puck, allowing Wayne Simmonds to check him from behind, steal the puck and throw a pass to Brayden Schenn in the slot. Deryk Engelland, who didn’t position himself well for Bortuzzo’s indecisive play then got caught in no man’s land and couldn’t block Schenn’s shot.

The same could be said on the Flyers second goal, on the power play. Letang let Schenn get behind him and Marc-Andre Fleury, but don’t miss that Matt Niskanen was playing at the same depth and let his guy get behind him too. Was that a coaching strategy or some sort of rare double lapse that just happened at the same time? Either way, both defensemen were betting they could block/deflect/intercept an incoming puck, and both were mistaken in that belief when the puck got by them and Schenn had an easy slam dunk goal that Letang couldn’t recover from in time to tie him up.

And, that was really that. Emery was solid enough to take care of the rest. As mentioned above, he denied Crosby on a flurry of tremendous chances throughout the game. Crosby was flying and seemingly cutting through the Flyers defensemen at will. Evgeni Malkin also played a very strong game with and without the puck, his centering pass into Crosby would create the Pens only goal of the game. Malkin too couldn’t get the luck or just execution to finish off more chances, but at least he generated some. The hope has to be it’ll work out sooner or later.

And that hope is about the only thing the Pens have to go on at this point- a rough game and a loss, not entirely deserved given the all-around effort, but they just need to convert more in order to win. Letang is catching a lot of fan ire, but down two of the team’s top four defensemen currently, he also played 28 minutes and, along with the rest of the defense and a quietly solid night from Fleury, held the opponents to 2 goals against. On most nights, that should be enough for the Pittsburgh Penguins to win. Unfortunately, last night was not one of them.

And check out Mike Darnay's moments that mattered for GIF's and more reactions to last night's game.

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