Sports Magazine

Black n' Gold Blitz : Penguins Vs. Flyers Worth Much More Than 2 Points

By Kipper @pghsportsforum
As the Pittsburgh Penguins, and their flock of fans prepare for yet another Pens vs. Flyers matchup, there is one thing that CANNOT be overlooked. That is how the Flyers have dominated this series in recent memory. The Flyers have won 10 of the last 15 games, and 8 of those Penguins losses were when the Pens blew a lead of some sort. The Flyers are THAT team for the Penguins. These teams are all across the board in all sports. The Steelers have the Ravens. The Pirates have the Brewers. The Penguins have the Flyers. Its that team that has the ability, regardless of personnel, to bring out the WORST in their opposition. Alot of teams do it, but no one does it quite like the Flyers. Their late hits, playing beyond the whistle, the Broadstreet Bullies are at it again. Its up to the Penguins to look back at their first game of the season and duplicate that discipline. If they lost that tape, simply show them the last meeting between the two teams, and as an encore presentation show them last year's 1st round playoff series loss. Its the perfect example of 'What to do' and 'What NOT to do'.
The 2 points that are available for either team on Thursday night in Philadelphia are big. The Flyers trying to crawl back into contention in the Atlantic Division, and the Penguins trying to keep their foot on the gas pedal not allowing others to catch them in the season that has now become more of a 5k and less of a marathon. However, I don't think the 2 points is the most important outcome of a victory in Philadelphia. The Penguins need to prove several things to themselves before any of us can consider them a serious Stanley Cup contender.
- Show the ability to go into an opponent's barn and win the crucial game - The Pens have been REALLY good on the road this year, but at the same time, you have to win the big games when they count the most. You have to win those close games against good competition regardless of where that slab of ice is laid. The Pens have a perfect opportunity to do that when they travel to Philly on Thursday Night.
- Do not fall victim to the idiocy of goons - We all know who they are. We all know what they do. The cross check to the lower back after the whistle. The shove into the goaltender. The occasional "Slew Foot" just to send a message. The Penguins aren't a dirty team, but the Flyers get under their skin. The result? A TON of retaliation penalties that leads to the Penguins spending more time with 4 skaters than 5. The Penguins know what is going to happen, but can they resist the retaliation that has gotten them into trouble in the past?
- Fix the Defensive issues that remain - The Penguins are the most lethal offensive hockey team in the Eastern Conference, and maybe in the entire NHL. However, they don't have a dominant defense to back up that offensive threat night in and night out. Sure, the defense has put together some pretty impressive games (see the Pens victories over the Rangers this year), but as of late its been more "outscoring opponents" than "stopping opponents". You can't blame the goaltenders for everything...the defense just isn't playing the way they are capable. Too many defenders trying to pinch into the offensive zone and not enough being that "stay at home" defender. Remember when the Pens won the Cup in 2009? How many "offensive defenders" did they have on the roster? Sergei Gonchar and Kris Letang. Hall Gill, Rob Scuderi, Mark Eaton, and Brooks Orpik are guys that simply DO THEIR JOB as defenders and leave the scoring to Sid and the boys. Go back to the '09 style of defense and the Pens are on their way.
- Continue to light the lamp - As I just said, the Penguins are a dangerous offensive team, but for some reason struggle to score against the Flyers. The Pens need to pepper the Flyers goaltenders with shots and keep doing what they've been doing. Maintaining puck possession in the opponent's zone and keep the throttle down the entire game. Coach Byslma...if I may...please tell Geno and the guys that its OKAY to dump and chase from time to time. The risk involved with stupid drop passes and turnovers leaves that shoddy defense out to dry on the back end. Put shots on goal, keep the pressure on, and the Penguins will get their doubt about it.
This game tomorrow night is a big game. No question about it. But at the same time, this season is different from previous seasons. When you have 82 games on the schedule if you lose 3 in a row it isn't the end of the world. In a 48 game season, it could be deadly...especially if they are division losses. The Penguins are hanging around .500 within their division this season. Its time to put another notch in the 'W' column, but this time its time to hand a loss to the skating road cones (the Flyers).

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