Flyers

Flyers

You don't want to play the Penguins at their game.

If you try, then good luck.

The Flyers were left picking up the pieces after experiencing the two-time defending champs at full force Wednesday in a 7-0 Game 1 catastrophe, a black eye to open this best-of-seven first-round playoff series.

"They're loaded with talent," NBC Sports hockey analyst Keith Jones said of the Penguins Thursday on Philly Sports Talk. "And if you don't find a way to draw them into a game that they don't like to play, which is an aggressive and irritating game, if you allow them to play, they're going to beat you up on the scoreboard — and that's exactly what they did."

The Flyers can tweak styles and matchups, but to avoid that Pittsburgh storm, they ultimately need at least a semblance of steadiness in net.

They haven't gotten it once this year in five meetings against the Penguins and the results haven't been too pretty, with Wednesday's being the ugliest. Brian Elliott surrendered five goals on 19 shots before being pulled with 10:59 left in the second period.

As Elliott skated off the ice, the Flyers' biggest question entering the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs grew even larger.

Are there any answers in sight?

Petr Mrazek, the current backup acquired in February, went 3-6-3 with a 3.70 goals-against average and .880 save percentage since March 1, while Michal Neuvirth, who is still day to day with a lower-body injury, has played just 28:07 since Feb. 19.

 

Furthermore, Elliott is only three contests into his return from core muscle surgery on Feb. 13, which put him out of game action for 53 days. In his first outing back, he yielded three weak goals to the Hurricanes. He then blanked a bad Rangers team two days later in the regular-season finale, but faced only 17 shots during a 5-0 rout.

"He is by far the best goaltender that the Flyers have and showed us early in the season and through the middle part that he can be a very good netminder, but he has not shown that since his return," Jones said. "His shutout against the Rangers, I don't even think that counts. The game against Carolina, there was a couple of goals that were disturbing. And the game [Wednesday], two of the first three I didn't like and I just didn't like the fact that he didn't look like himself, and that's, in my mind, due to a goaltender that's either really rusty or still having issues."

The day prior to his first game back, Elliott admitted to the situation not being ideal.

"Obviously if there was more time, it would help," he said April 4. "But we don't have that."

So what's next for the Flyers? Dave Hakstol will turn to Elliott in Game 2 Friday night (7 p.m./NBCSP), but the leash might not be long.

"I think there's a conversation that has to take place between the head coach and the goaltender, that being Brian Elliott, to make sure that he is confident that he can go out there and play the game to the best of his abilities with no limitations," Jones said. "You're not going to beat the Penguins if your goalie is not at 100 percent. Missing that much time is difficult, you hope it's rust — if that's the case, then you give him the opportunity to find his game in Game No. 2."

And if he doesn't, the Flyers will be stuck in the same storm that's only brewing.