There are a couple of ways to look at the Flyers’ position in the defensive-challenged Eastern Conference quarterfinals:
- Glass half-full: The Flyers still have a comfortable 3-1 series lead against the Pittsburgh Penguins, and they are headed “home” to the Consol Energy Center, where they are 7-1 since it opened two years ago.
- Glass half-empty: The Penguins, thanks to a 10-3 win in a pond-hockey game disguised as the playoffs on Wednesday, have put some considerable doubts in the Flyers’ minds.
This being Philadelphia, where the last Stanley Cup parade was in 1975, I have a feeling most fans are getting a little nervous, primarily because of goalie Ilya Bryzgalov’s struggles.
Ever since he suffered a chip fracture in his right foot late in the season, Bryzgalov has lost the rhythm that produced a sensational March. Bryzgalov was pulled after allowing five goals on 18 shots in Game 4 on Wednesday. For the series, he has a 4.95 goals-against average and .844 save percentage.
“I’m not worried about Bryz,” Flyers center Claude Giroux insisted. “He knows what he’s got to do. He’s a lead goaltender, and we’ve got to do a better job in front of him. He’ll be our best player in Game 5.”
Bryzgalov’s counterpart, Marc-Andre Fleury, has also been awful, compiling a 5.43 GAA and .817 save percentage in the series. But the guy they call “Flower” did steady himself over the final two periods Wednesday, and he will take some momentum into Game 5 on Friday.
The Penguins’ biggest confidence-booster, however, was the standout performances by their Big Three _ Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby and Jordan Staal. They combined for six goals and three assists Wednesday as the Flyers’ defense gave little resistance.
Put it all together _ along with an injury to Flyers defenseman Nick Grossmann _ and it’s easy to imagine the Penguins surviving on Friday and the teams returning to the Wells Fargo Center for Game 6.
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Giroux on the loss: “We got embarrassed in front of our fans, and that’s something we’re not happy about. The good thing about playoffs is you put that one behind you, and correct what you did. Now we’ll go back to Pittsburgh, and we know what we have to do.”
Defenseman Kimmo Timonen agreed.
“We’ll sleep on it, and we’ll come to the rink (Thursday) and have a good practice,” he said. “We’ll watch a little bit of tape and we will go from there. When Friday comes, we should be ready to go.”
Breakaways. The Flyers’ power play converted 3 of 5 chances Wednesday and increased their series total to a staggering 9 for 15 (60 percent)…..Pittsburgh’s PP was 4 for 7 Wednesday….In the four games, the Flyers have outscored the Penguins, 23-22.....The Brayden Schenn-Danny Briere-Wayne Simmonds line was a combined minus-11.
Follow Sam Carchidi on Twitter @BroadStBull.