April 18, 2009

Road to nowhere.

If they'd played Game 2 in Game 1, the Philadelphia Flyers would have a lot of things to be proud of.

They had an aggressive forecheck (for the most part), with good goaltending and an intensity level appropriate for such an important playoff game. More stupid penalties led to the eventual OT goal scored by Bill Guerin, but they matched the Pittsburgh Penguins up and down the ice for over 60 minutes.

But it wasn't Game 1 - it was Game 2, and now the Flyers find themselves in an almost insurmountable position.

Are the Flyers getting the short end on some of these calls? Probably, but they have been all year. There's nothing that can do about that beyond playing a more disciplined game, and despite what Mike Knuble and Claude Giroux might think, that doesn't stop when regulation ends.

My biggest issue is that the team still acts like they're better than these other teams, that they haven't flipped the "win a game" switch just yet, that bad refereeing and the mouthy Penguins have contributed greatly to these two losses.

What's really happening, though, is that the Penguins are the defending Eastern Conference champions, with some incredibly speedy, skilled forwards and a very good goaltender. The Flyers do not match up well with them; at this point in the season, and the way the Penguins are playing, no team in the Eastern Conference does.

If excuses help them sleep better at night, fine. Right now, however, the Flyers are a younger, less experienced, more undisciplined team being outworked, outhustled and outsmarted by a better team. There's a way to rectify all that, but even with Games 3 and 4 coming back to Philadelphia, I wouldn't bet it on.

This team will get better as Richards, Carter, Sbisa, Giroux, Hartnell, Coburn, etc. get older and more experienced. The window isn't closing anytime soon. Still, until they realize their failings and work harder to overcome them (a problem that, as Tom Cimino said, probably stems from leadership on or off the ice), a team like the Pittsburgh Penguins will run rampant over a team like the Philadelphia Flyers.

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