Nolan Patrick

Ding dong, the Flyers-Penguins rivalry is gone

Ding dong, the Flyers-Penguins rivalry is gone

Michal Neuvirth stood by his locker Wednesday night dejected, like the rest of his teammates, after the Flyers’ latest blunder, an embarrassing 5-0 loss on home ice to the Penguins in Game 4.

The Flyers are on the brink of elimination to the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions, and Wednesday's defeat was the latest reminder of their current state of affairs.

"Definitely good to get in the mix," said Neuvirth, who replaced Brian Elliott in the second period for his first game action since March 28. "But tough outcome tonight. We lost it to a better team tonight."

With that, Neuvirth perfectly encapsulated exactly where the Flyers stand in this first-round playoff series with Pittsburgh. It's definitely good to be in the mix, and they lost to the better team.

We've heard that before and we'll hear it again, but it doesn't make it any easier to swallow. This Flyers team isn't quite there yet, to compete with the Penguins or in the playoffs.

There are encouraging signs. The postseason experience will pay off in the long run — it's better than not being there. Nolan Patrick, 19, has perhaps been the Flyers' most consistent forward in the series. He was the only player who competed Wednesday.

But goaltending remains an eyesore and rookie mistakes are consistently being made by veterans, and some appear immune to accountability. Game 4 was as ugly as it gets (see story), and that's counting a series that included a 7-0 loss in Game 1.

The Flyers were never really in Wednesday's game outside of about a two-minute stretch in the first period, when they were buzzing in the Pittsburgh zone until a Scott Laughton centering pass turned into a Penguins odd-man rush.

Bang, 2-0 Pittsburgh. Ballgame.

"From our standpoint," Dave Hakstol said, "we have to look from within. There's going to be momentum swings, there are going to be pushes, but we haven't been able to reestablish our game quick enough to give ourselves an opportunity."

Wednesday served as another grim reminder. This Flyers-Penguins rivalry, well, isn't much of a rivalry and hasn't been one in quite some time now.

Coming into this series, we heard the old storylines, about how much these two teams hate each other, how close games are, but the hate hasn't been there for a while and the games, they haven't been close, either.

The Penguins have dominated the Flyers, this season especially. With the 5-0 win Wednesday, the Pens have outscored the Flyers, 38-17, in eight total games and 20-4 in games played at the Wells Fargo Center.

The hype machine was on full blast and we all bought into it. It's the playoffs, different animal, but some things never change no matter the environment.

At some point, it's time to bury the hatchet.

It was fun while it lasted, but for now, the Flyers-Penguins rivalry is no more.

Flyers turn in dominant response with Game 2 win over Penguins

Flyers turn in dominant response with Game 2 win over Penguins

BOX SCORE

PITTSBURGH — The Flyers bounced back in a big way in the ‘Burgh Friday night with a 5-1 win over the Penguins to even the series at 1-1.

Shayne Gostisbehere and Sean Couturier scored one minute and 24 seconds apart while Travis Konecny, Nolan Patrick and Andrew MacDonald also added goals.

Brian Elliott bounced back with an excellent performance, stopping 34 of 35 shots to snap a seven-game postseason losing streak.

The Flyers’ special teams took over as the power play connected twice and the penalty kill was a perfect 4 for 4.

With three consecutive shutouts, Penguins goaltender Matt Murray had his postseason scoreless streak snapped at 225 minutes and 49 seconds.

The series shifts to Philadelphia for Game 3 Sunday afternoon (3 p.m./NBC).

• Game 1 was too easy for Pittsburgh as the Flyers allowed the Penguins to move with ease throughout the neutral zone and into the offensive zone. The Flyers responded in Game 2 with a more physical presence, taking the body, especially along the boards — an element to their game that was missing in Game 1. The Flyers were fortuitous in drawing a boarding penalty that led to their power-play goal, a shot that Murray should have stopped. 

• This may be the first time since early in the season that we’ve seen the Flyers display a quick-strike ability against the Penguins as they scored their first two goals in a span of one minute and 24 seconds. Couturier tried to catch Murray through the five hole and as the goalie made the save the puck deflected off Kris Letang and past him for a 2-0 lead. The Pens’ defensive breakdown left Couturier all alone, which was the key to making it happen.    

• The Flyers made the Penguins earn everything in and around the crease. The Flyers’ defense had a body on the Penguins forwards and didn’t allow them to have the freedom to hang around the blue paint. After giving up a bad first goal in Game 1, Elliott’s rebound control was excellent as he steered most of Pittsburgh’s shots out of harm’s way. It also helped that four Penguins’ shots hit posts.    

• Elliott came up with the save of the game with 7:28 remaining. After Claude Giroux turned the puck over at the Penguins’ blue line, Sidney Crosby raced in all alone on Elliott. The netminder read Crosby’s move perfectly and stoned his backhand attempt. With Crosby, there’s a guessing game to where he’s going to go and credit Elliott, who made a perfect read.

The Penguins hit several posts and Crosby’s frustration was evident as he failed to connect on an easy, slam dunk tap-in on the Pens’ power play at the end of the second period. Crosby threw his head back in disbelief and then snapped his stick along the crossbar — a rare public display of frustration from the Pens’ captain that would have pulled Pittsburgh to within 2-1. 

Flyers to rely on key rookies as playoff kick off tonight

Flyers to rely on key rookies as playoff kick off tonight

PITTSBURGH — Five Flyers are expected to make their Stanley Cup playoff debuts tonight in Pittsburgh. Defenseman Ivan Provorov is perhaps the most relied upon rookie out of that group, which also includes Travis Sanheim, Travis Konecny, Nolan Patrick and Oskar Lindblom.

Provorov and Patrick will attempt to draw on their extensive playoff experience with the Brandon Wheat Kings in the Western Hockey League as a starting point for the intensity, speed and physicality that comes with the NHL postseason. 

“I think that experience helped us both a lot,” Provorov said. “We learned how to win in the playoffs and play long series against teams and how to wear teams down. 

“I just look at it the same. The level is going to elevate. The physical part is going to come. I think both of us are ready for that and I’m just going to go out there and give everything I have."

Together, in back-to-back seasons, Provorov and Patrick played 40 games in the WHL Playoffs, advancing to the Memorial Cup tournament in 2016.

Hagg sits
Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol spent several minutes on the ice before Wednesday’s morning skate speaking one-on-one with rookie defenseman Robert Hagg, whose physical style and positional play would be ideally suited for a playoff series. 

“He just came up to me and told me to be ready and that you never know what’s going to happen in the playoffs,” Hagg said. “He just told me to put my work in and you need to be ready.”

As one of the last Flyers off the ice during practice and morning skates, Hagg has put in the necessary work but has been a healthy scratch over the final eight games of the regular season.

“When you haven’t played in a while, you have to keep up physically and try not to be gassed after two shifts,” Hagg said. “It’s different when you practice all the time and then go into a game. You can limit that a little bit by practicing good and practicing hard to get prepared.” 

A three-peat in Pittsburgh? 
The talk swirling around Pittsburgh is the possibility of winning three straight Stanley Cups for the first time since the Islanders ripped off four straight from 1980-83. 

The Flyers find themselves in the unenviable task of trying to take down a team that has won its last eight postseason series since it was eliminated by the Rangers in five games in the first round of the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

According to head coach Mike Sullivan, understanding roles and the bigger picture is a big part of that success. 

 “Our team is very well aware of what our identity is,” Sullivan said. “I think to a man our players understand what their contribution is in helping this team be successful and now we’ve got to go out there and play our game and we’ve got to embrace the challenge.”

Projected lines, pairings, scratches
Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Michael Raffl
Oskar Lindblom-Nolan Patrick-Jakub Voracek
Travis Konecny-Valtteri Filppula-Wayne Simmonds
Scott Laughton-Jori Lehtera-Matt Read

Ivan Provorov-Shayne Gostisbehere
Travis Sanheim-Andrew MacDonald
Brandon Manning-Radko Gudas

Brian Elliott
Petr Mrazek

Scratches: Jordan Weal, Robert Hagg, Taylor Leier, Dale Weise, Johnny Oduya