Have you ever heard the saying, “When you point a finger at someone, you point three back at yourself”? The Philadelphia Flyers were their own worst enemy on Sunday afternoon. Don’t be so quick to point fingers at the refs; this one was all on the Orange and Black.
For example, take the first goal of the game. The Flyers were dominating the pace of play in the first period. All of a sudden, Michael Raffl has a critical turnover right by Brian Elliott. Sidney Crosby makes the best of the opportunity and the Penguins take a 1-0 lead. This was a huge momentum swing in favor of Pittsburgh.
The Flyers never really seemed to recover from that. The power play looked off most of the time (and couldn’t put a point up) and the penalty kill allowed three power play goals on seven chances.
This leads me to the next point: the voice of Flyers Twitter is that “The referees called an unfair game.”
While I agree they missed a few calls in favor of the Flyers, they missed some for the Penguins, too. Jori Lehtera was on the ice too long during a Penguins power play. The point is moot as the Pens went on to score on that particular power play, but still it could have been called. Aside from that all the calls were legitimate. Claude Giroux’s slash, Laughton’s high-sticking, Voracek’s high-sticking, Manning’s trip, all were legitimate penalty calls. The players have to be smarter.
Not only do the players have to be smarter, but they have to make the best of their chances. The Flyers had a lot of opportunities to jump out to a lead early on in the game. Sure, Matt Murray played brilliantly early on, but you have to find a way to get out to an early lead at home in a critical Game 3.
That’s enough high-road for me. Now onto what I think was the true turning point of the game: Travis Konecny and Justin Schultz get offsetting minor penalties. Shortly before the two were sent to the box Schultz blatantly hooked Konecny with no call. TK responded by hitting Schultz behind the play and Schultz got TK with a high-stick. Both were sent to the box, interference and high-sticking respectively. The four-on-four quickly turned into another Penguins power play as Voracek got called for hooking. The Penguins scored immediately giving them a three goal lead. They went on to score five seconds later to make it four.
Don’t get me wrong, Brian Elliott needs to come up with that save on Brian Dumoulin, but this was a situation that could have easily been avoided. Had the original call have been made for a hook on Schultz the Flyers would have never been in that position.
I don’t mean to live in a fictional “what if” universe, because it’s just as easy to say that the Orange and Black needed to capitalize early on. I’m just stating that one missed call ended up affecting the long-term outcome of the game.
A few things:
On the bright side:
• There is next game. It doesn’t matter how bad the Flyers lost in game three as a one point loss counts the same as a four point one.
• Travis Sanheim looked good. I love the style of game he plays and he notched the Flyers’ lone goal of the night.
• The Flyers controlled the pace early on. This is promising, if they can come out hot on Wednesday we might have an even series heading back to Pittsburgh
Questions to be asked:
• Will Dave Hakstol keep Michael Raffl on the top line for Game 4?
I wouldn’t if I were him. My ideal line situation is Giroux-Couturier-Voracek (assuming Hak wants a big body to play the boards), Lindblom-Patrick-Konecny, Simmonds-Filppula-Laughton, Raffl-Lehtera-Read. Laughton and Raffl are interchangeable, the suggested lines would be assuming Hak genuinely doesn’t want Raffl on the third line.
• Will Petr Mrazek start Game 4?
I don’t think so. I know it’s hard to say someone had a good game when they allowed five goals, but his team let him down in my opinion. Raffl had that bad turnover in the first period, and the Flyers’ allowed seven power plays. (!) I’d roll with Elliott for game four, he still made some nice saves.
• Will Robert Hagg replace Brandon Manning?
God, I hope so. I don’t think it will happen but that would be ideal.
The Flyers still have a chance in this series. Pittsburgh does have a 2-1 lead, but there is still plenty of hockey to be played. The Orange and Black play at home again on Wednesday night. If the Flyers play with the same intensity they opened Game 3 with, we could have an even series heading back west.