Not the best start to a playoff series.
Now, I like to think I'm a passionate and intelligent hockey fan, but I'm only 23. How can I be expected to offer the same in-depth insights as, say, a 50-year-old? Well, that is why I bring you Tom Cimino, my father and longtime hockey fan/coach/Philadelphia Flyers season ticket holder, and his "Keys to the Series"!
(Note: His remarks, given to me in email form, have been edited to my blog's standards.)
We always dwell on what the Flyers did wrong, but as a coach, what do they need to do to correct the problems?
The worry, and its a big one, is that they have made these mistakes all season long. Rarely do you correct this kind of stuff in the playoffs, but here are four things they need to do to win.
1) Be more disciplined, and I think this reflects mostly on the coach and on leadership. You cannot win giving good teams seven or eight power plays night in and night out. If players continue to play stupid, you have to sit them.
2) Establish a stronger forecheck.
3) Get more help from the forwards in getting the puck out of your zone. They look weak in board battles, and there is too much separation between forwards and the defense.
4) Disrupt the Penguins style with close checking and, again, a strong forecheck. This is really the only way to to slow up a team that is skilled and on a roll.
The question is, how do you do all this against a good team? Boy, oh boy, this is a bad matchup for the Flyers. In my opinion, the worst they could've gotten. And they blew home ice, which certainly would have helped. I think they are losing this series, BUT imposing their style and will on the Penguins is their only chance. If they can't do all four of these things I mentioned...gone in a week.
I'm tempted to agree with him. For too long this team has acted like they can turn it on whenever they want, and, well, the time is now. Last night looked too much like last year, and this time, there's no excuses about crippling injuries or inexperience. There are a lot of young players, sure, but 75% of this team was in the conference finals last season. To me, playing aggressive is the name of the game, and the Flyers did not have the fire last night. Whether they'll hit the "play good" switch tomorrow night, that's anybody's guess.