Pod Street Postgame : No Crosby, Still a Problem

Welcome to a sad Pod Street Postgame. A very sad Pod Street Postgame. In the first match of a three game series, the Flyers met with the Pittsburgh Penguins for the first time since the season opener. There were a lot of firsts in tonight’s game as Mark Friedman made his debut for the Penguins after being claimed off waivers. Travis Konecny played his first game since coming off of the COVID-19 protocol list. Pittsburgh also welcomed Oskar Lindblom back to the PPG Paints Arena for the first time since his diagnosis and battle with cancer.

Pittsburgh was missing Captain Sidney Crosby as he was placed onto the COVID-19 list eight hours prior to the game. He will most likely miss the whole series against the Flyers this week. That should give the Flyers a sigh of relief, as that is one less threat that they will have to worry about.

In a scoreless first period, the Flyers played strongly and commanded most of the play. Early on, Pittsburgh took two back-to-back penalties that the Flyers failed to convert on. Still riding Sunday’s shutout high, Carter Hart turned away five shots from the Penguins that were high danger scoring chances. Claude Giroux took a penalty late in the period to give the Penguins a power play to start the second period. 

Hart and the Flyers denied the early Penguins power play to start the second period. The Flyers and Penguins would then exchange goals just over a minute apart as Joel Farabee and Kasperi Kapanen would get the scoring started. Kapanen wasn’t finished, as he scored his second of the night on a beautiful passing sequence on the power play. The Penguins would score another goal to take a 3-1 lead into the third period, this time with the Flyers having a power play to start. 

The Flyers would remain scoreless through the power play and the period until the 11 minute mark. Joel Farabee picked up his second goal of the night on a broken defensive play by the Penguins.

Pittsburgh would respond once again just over a minute later to extend the lead back to two on a goal by Cody Ceci. Mark Friedman picked up his first point in a Penguins uniform against his former club. On a heads up play by the Penguins defenseman, Mike Matheson fired the puck towards the Flyers empty net as Hart was attempting to get an extra skater on the ice. 

That would be the nail in the coffin as the Penguins went on to win 5-2 in game one of the three game series. That first line of Couturier, van Riemsdyk and Farabee continued to keep that chemistry as they recorded four points (2 goals, 2 assists).  Carter Hart played a really decent game, but if it wasn’t for the players in front of him, he could have stolen the game from the Penguins.

Defensive Breakdowns

Just as we thought the defense was starting to shore up and get it together, they decided to prove the fan base wrong once again. On two of the Penguins goals, the defense was to blame. The lackadaisical plays and bad positioning are continuing to be costly.

Kapanen’s first goal for the Penguins was on a bad cross ice pass by Gostisbehere trying to extend the ice. Kapanen read the pass and intercepted the puck to give him the entire ice for a breakaway on Carter Hart. Ghost’s decision to pass the puck on this sequence was risky. If he had looked up to read the ice, he would have seen Kapanen sealing that lane off. We all know the high risk, high reward we get with Gostisbehere but this turnover could have been avoided. 

The third goal is inexcusable for the Flyers top defensive pair. Provorov and Gostisbehere allowed Bryan Rust and Jake Guentzel to sneak behind them, standing all alone against Hart. The shot from the point just had to make it through to the net and they could take care of the rest. Provy and Ghost need to give Hart some help and clear those players away from the blue paint in order for him to make a save. 

This defense has shown some signs of life during this season, but the Flyers are obviously missing a shutdown defenseman. Makes you wonder when or if Fletcher is going to pick up the phone and shake things up. 

Kasperi Kapanen

Yes, if you’re wondering why you recognize the last name, it’s due to the fact that Sami Kapanen is Kasperi’s father. Sami, a Philadelphia Flyer back in the early 2000’s, now gets to watch his son score goals against his former team. The kid is good at it too. 

Drafted 22nd overall in 2014 by the Pittsburgh Penguins at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, then General Manager Ron Hextall had the chance to draft Kapanen. Hextall instead chose to draft Travis Sanheim with the 17th overall pick. Yeah, Sanheim has been a good defenseman for the Flyers, but wouldn’t you want a young, fast goal scorer?

Kapanen was arguably the best player for the Penguins against the Flyers. With two goals and some high scoring chances, the Flyers just weren’t able to contain him. Imagine having a young player like him on this Flyers team. If it weren’t for Hart, the young Fin would have had a natural hat trick. 

Flyers Powerplay Own Worst Enemy

Against the worst penalty killing team in the division, the Flyers once again could not find a way to capitalize on the man advantage. There isn’t much work for the Penguins to do while they are killing penalties against the Flyers. The power play units don’t make accurate passes and their sharp angle shots rocket off of the boards and out of the zone.

On the season, the Flyers have been presented with 63 powerplay opportunities. They have only scored on 12 of them. That’s pathetic and it’s even lower than the league average of 14 goals on 66 opportunities. Tonight alone, the Flyers blanked themselves by giving up five quality power plays.

At times, the boys in orange and black were passing too much and not taking enough shots while on the man advantage. With all of the passing, they would shoot themselves in the foot by not making an accurate pass with the puck bouncing out to center ice. 

Alain Vigneault and Michel Therrien need to figure this power play out. This team is not going to win games if they aren’t scoring when given the opportunity. Obviously mixing up the players on the units is not helping. 

Final Thoughts

With how tight the standings are, the Flyers cannot afford losing games against teams such as Pittsburgh who are on the verge of the playoff bubble. The rest of this series is going to be a powder keg ready to explode as the physical play from both teams picked up during the game. Even with the absence of Crosby, the Penguins still found a way to pick up a much needed win.

Same team, same place, same time on Thursday night. Get ready for game two as the Battle of Pennsylvania will certainly heat up. It will be interesting to see what lineup changes Alain Vigneault will make going into Thursday night’s game. A player like Nic Aube-Kubel certainly should be inserted into this lineup to add a little bit more grit. 

That’s all for this Pod Street Postgame. Be sure to check back after Thursday night’s tilt for the next, and hopefully happier, Pod Street Postgame!

Photo Credit – Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire

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