If either club is going to hope to have success in Game 4, they need to put Game 3’s emotional train wreck of a hockey game behind them. That may sound like an impossible feat, but the team that finds a way to put as much of the last game out of their memories will win Game 4 Wednesday night.
Given that, while I would not be the least bit surprised if the Penguins were able to win Game 4, the Flyers will complete the sweep of their cross-state rivals, and here’s how they’ll do it.
The Flyers are playing with confidence. They have now undeniably buried themselves deep underneath the skin of the Penguins. They have their opponents playing exactly the type of game they want.
Throughout this series, the Flyers have played Peter Laviolette’s brand of full-throttle, in-your-face hockey. They have been an offensive juggernaut in the first three games, setting a club record for goals in a playoff series with 20 and the series isn’t over yet.
The Penguins have been more than effective offensively as well. Unfortunately for them, Game 4 will boil down to who scores more goals, and in that area the Flyers have had the upper hand.
The Flyers have stormed back from first period deficits in all three games so far in this series. In Game 3, however, the scoring took a backseat to the brutality.
The Flyers have a long history of being the agitators and the instigators. In Game 3 it was the Penguins assuming the role of the Broad Street Bullies, and the results couldn’t have been better…for Philadelphia. On Sunday afternoon, the Flyers were the aggressors between every whistle. The Penguins were the aggressors after those whistles, and it cost them dearly.
When frustration rears its ugly head in a team, the results are seldom positive. The scrums and skirmishes after the play in Game 3 were so far out of the norm for the highly-skilled Penguins that many viewers may have been left adjusting their TV sets thinking perhaps their yellows and oranges were off.
They were not. The Flyers have backed the Penguins into a corner and they feel as though their only option is to fight their way out. That situation does not bode well for the Penguins.
The Flyers are riding a tidal wave of momentum into Game 4 and will have some of the most rabid fans in hockey packing the Wells Fargo Center to support them, not to mention Hulk Hogan!
The Penguins appear defeated already. From the coaches to the players, few if any have expressed true optimism that the team can turn the series around.
Head coach Dan Bylsma alluded to a longer stay this playoff year by announcing Marc-Andre Fleury would be the Penguins starting goaltender for the next four games, hinting at a Penguin comeback in the process. One could argue that he hardly made the statement emphatic enough to rally the troops.
So the Flyers have forced the Penguins to play out of their comfort zone and have found great success in doing so, but surely a team as talented as the Penguins could still find a way to win, right?
The scoreboard tells the tale of how Fleury has played to this point. Crosby has been good at times, but has been absent far more. He was involved either directly or indirectly in all of the major altercations in Game 3 and as a result spent much more time in the penalty box, unable to contribute to the cause, than the Penguins would care to see again.
James Neal shined through the first half of Game 3 only to embarrass in the second half. He was held goalless through the first two games and, pending a hearing from the NHL and Brendan Shanahan, may not even see the ice for Game 4.
Perhaps the most disappointing Penguin in this series has been Evgeni Malkin. Outplayed for much of the first three games by 19-year-old Flyers rookie Sean Couturier, Malkin, the NHL’s top scorer during the regular season, has been stymied. Zero goals for Malkin does not help a successful playoff run for the Pens.
Still, the Penguins could find a way to turn all that around and play a great game on Wednesday night and force the series to shift back to the Consol Energy Center for Game 5. But they won’t. They won’t because the Flyers are too resilient, too confident and they are playing at the absolute top of their game.
Mediocre goaltending and temporary lapses in defensive assignments have not cost this team to this point and they will continue to overcome those traps in Game 4. Their offense is the reason this team wins games and it has been that way all season.
There is no reason to believe the Flyers cannot handle any adversity that comes their way Wednesday night. They know that they own the Penguins right now, and they know what it’s like to be on the other side of a 3-0 deficit in a playoff series as well.
The Flyers want to end this series as soon as possible. They have shown much more respect for the Penguins than the Penguins have shown for them and they will not allow a team as talented as the Penguins to have any breathing room.