And just like that, Philadelphia’s season is over. At least, that’s how the city and their fans will tell you how the series is going. Or at the VERY least, that’s how Pittsburgh and their fans will tell you how it’s going. That’s just how that state works. The collective mood swings of those two towns are so wild, it makes you wonder why people are looking somewhere else to find leadership, even if it is for the dumbest reasons imaginable.
But enough about non-hockey matters. The Penguins took the Flyers to school and any form of positive self-esteem the away team had vanished completely once Sean Couturier coughed up a bouncing puck during a breakout. Before it was all said and done, Sidney Crosby decided to proverbially shoot jump shots with his non-dominant hand to get his hat trick.
Clearly, this was Pittsburgh’s night and it was a statement that this rendition is significantly better than last year’s version as long as everyone stays healthy all postseason and as long as Matt Murray plays well. Those two things happened and the stars came out to shine not just on the goal total, but also on the stat sheet.
Pittsburgh’s top line outshot the opposition 17-12 in their nine plus minutes of even strength play while the Kris Letang-Brian Dumoulin pair dominated the same way in their 12 plus minutes of evens ice time, 16-11. While Philadelphia actually performed fine against Pittsburgh in power for power matchups based off of shot attempts, it still ended up being a 4-0 shellacking in just those situations alone. Along with Couturier being the biggest culprit in the second Penguins goal, he also committed a tripping penalty on Kris Letang that could have led to a suspension if it was ever a degree more violent. That upcoming shorthanded situation led to Jake Guentzel’s power play goal.
Lastly, Brian Elliott clearly wasn’t healthy in his first postseason game and his second game returning from a core muscle injury that kept him out for more than a quarter of the season. I feel for the guy because, as any Flyers fan should understand since September, this was the best they can do with the salary cap that they had. Anybody that thinks that Petr Mrazek is an upgrade should be laughed out of town because Detroit fans couldn’t wait to get rid of him. Add in the fact that Michael Neuvirth is a walking injury waiting to happen and you have Philadelphia’s goaltending situation for 2018. Until Carter Hart and his 94.7% save percentage at the WHL can make permanent residence on Broad Street, the Flyers will not get their Paul Holmgren on on a goaltender anytime soon.
I also feel for a guy like Ron Hextall because he has done everything a general manager is supposed to do in terms of rebuilding a team on such speed because Philadelphia never believes in patience while getting himself out of such Salary Cap misery. Over time, he has drafted and/or brought in Travis Konecny, Shayne Gostisbehere, Nolan Patrick, Travis Sanheim and Ivan Provorov and there are more players to come along the way. That is something you couldn’t ever say with the Flyers as soon as they traded all their prospects away for Chris Pronger. Along with that, he has been able to get rid of poisonous contracts like the one’s owned by Scott Hartnell, Nicklas Grossman, Mark Streit, Vincent Lacavlier, R.J. Umberger and Luke Schenn. We are still in year four of this rebuilding project and we still haven’t seen the complete fruits of his labor just yet.
Eventually, Hakstol will have to decide what the core of this team will look like within five to ten years because it has been obvious for a while that there has been a gap between the Giroux-Voracek-Simmonds class and the Konecny-Patrick-Provorov-“Ghost” one that has been building for sometime. Can the Flyers afford to keep all those players past everyone’s entry level deals? What happens when the current leadership group begins to age for the worse? These are questions that and continuing his ethos with zero inconsistencies (unlike Brian McClellan) will separate Hextall from being a playoff general manager to a Stanley Cup winning one whether he likes it or not.
Until then, Philadelphia is a professional hockey team. They have some pride in them as athletes and if they can get just one away win, that’s a small positive step in this series all on its own. It will be up to head coach Dave Hakstol to rally his troops the correct way to see that through. Whether Hakstol is the right man for the job in the long run is a discussion for another time, but for now, understand why the Flyers lost like this tonight and where they really stand in the NHL landscape. Otherwise, you really are going to forget that the Eagles just won the Super Bowl.