Here are 10 reasons the Flyers were eliminated from the Stanley Cup playoffs:
1. Special teams’ failure
Before the series, much was made about the Penguins’ best-in-the-NHL power play (26.2 percent success rate) and how it figured to exploit the Flyers’ weak penalty kill (29th in the league). Well, the Pens did go 5 for 25 (20 percent) in the series, but the Flyers’ biggest downfall was their own power play, which was an awful 2 for 21 (9.5 percent) and failed to click on a four-on-three that could have tied Game 6 midway through the third period.
The Flyers eventually lost, 8-5, and were eliminated.
From here, coach Dave Hakstol, knowing Ivan Provorov couldn’t shoot because of a badly injured left shoulder, should have dressed seven defensemen in Game 6 – and put Travis Sanheim, who was a healthy scratch, on the second power-play unit.
2. Some Flyers stars were invisible
Claude Giroux, Jake Voracek, and Wayne Simmonds combined for 78 goals during the regular season. They combined for one goal (Giroux’s) in the six playoff games. Simmonds played through an injury, and the Flyers didn’t have enough quality depth to sit him.
3. Sidney Crosby
The Penguins superstar was the best player in the series. Hands down. He finished with six goals, 13 points, and a plus-seven rating.
Put another way: Crosby had more goals than the combined total (five) for Giroux, Voracek, Simmonds, Travis Konecny, Provorov, Michael Raffl, Nolan Patrick, Val Filppula, Oskar Lindblom, Shayne Gostisbehere, and Jori Lehtera.
4. Defensive flaws
The Flyers allowed 28 goals, the most surrendered in franchise history in a six-game playoff series. It tied a franchise record for the most goals allowed in a playoff series of any length.
Gostisbehere had a terrific all-around regular season and improved his defense by leaps and bounds. But he was outmuscled, out of position, and a defensive liability in the series. He finished at minus-8.
Radko Gudas had up-and-down moments in the series, but his poor play in Game 6 allowed the Penguins to get back into the game.
Hakstol stubbornly stuck with the struggling Gudas-Brandon Manning pairing during the season and in the playoffs. Gudas’ play deteriorated since he received a 10-game suspension in November, muting his physicality.
Don’t be surprised if this pairing isn’t back. Manning, who plays with grit and who helped spur the Game 5 win by getting physical with Evgeni Malkin, is an unrestricted free agent. Gudas could be dealt or could find himself as the team’s No. 7 defenseman.
5. Goalie problems
The Flyers have had playoff goalie problems for — well, it seems like forever.
They used three goalies in this series. None had the answers. Yes, the defense was porous, but the goalies failed to make many game-turning saves that are needed in the postseason. Brian Elliott wasn’t himself. He was coming off core-muscle surgery, and the Flyers rushed him back for the playoffs.
Here were the final series numbers for their goalies: Elliott (1-3 record, 4.75 goals-against average, .856 save percentage), Michal Neuvirth (1-1, 4.40, .847), and Petr Mrazek (0-0, 3.87, .857)
For what it’s worth, some guy named Michael Leighton went 8-3 with a 2.46 goals-against average and .916 save percentage for the Flyers in the 2010 playoffs.
6. Home woes
The Flyers went 0-3 at the Wells Fargo Center in the series and were outscored by a combined 18-6 on home ice. Somewhere, Ed Snider is shaking his head.
In the series, Kate Smith was 0-2 when her “God Bless America” duet alongside Lauren Hart was played. Maybe the Flyers should have played “Wannabe” (ugh) by the Spice Girls because they ended their 10-game skid when the song blared over the speakers in their locker room before that contest in Calgary.
By the way, in seasons in which the Flyers have made the playoffs in the last 20 years, this was just the second time they failed to win a home game.
Late in Game 6, some “fans” threw debris on the ice, including cups of beer, apparently to show their displeasure at the events.
“Those things were full. What a waste,” Crosby cracked. “Guess they have to be full to throw them that far.”
7. Wasted heroics
Sean Couturier played on one leg. He revealed after Sunday’s Game 6 that he had played the final two games despite a torn MCL in his right knee. After sitting out Game 4, he scored the winner with 1 minute, 15 seconds left in Game 5, snapping a 2-2 tie in a 4-2 victory. In Game 6, he gave a performance for the ages: three goals, two assists, three hits, and 10 wins in 16 faceoffs (63 percent).
Again, on one leg.
And, yet, the Flyers could not follow his inspirational lead.
If they did, you would be hearing Kirk Gibson comparisons today.
Couturier, 25, became the second player in NHL history to collect five points in a playoff game that his team lost. It also happened to Toronto’s Lanny McDonald in a 1977 playoff game the Maple Leafs lost to the Flyers in overtime, 6-5.
8. Failure to close out Game 6
When you have a 4-2 lead with less than 27 minutes left against a Penguins team that was missing its leading regular-season scorer (Malkin), had another top forward (Carl Hagelin) go down with an injury early in Game 6, and had goalie Matt Murray fighting the puck and looking as if he was going to implode, you are supposed to be able to close it out.
But instead of putting their foot to the pedal, the Flyers got stepped on. At home.
Two turnovers by Gudas led to second-period goals that enabled the Penguins to tie the game, 4-4, and regroup.
It would have been interesting to see how this series had turned out if an anything-can-happen Game 7 would have been played Tuesday in Pittsburgh, where the Flyers have thrived over the years.
9. Third-period blues
Despite Gudas’ blunders, the Flyers just needed to win the third period Sunday and they would have forced a Game 7. Instead, they went more than 11 minutes before getting their first shot in the period.
How can this happen to a team whose season was on the line? Where was the desperation?
Pittsburgh scored 30 seconds into the third to take a 5-4 lead, and the Flyers were smothered by the Penguins for most of the last period.
10. The Penguins are just better
Yeah, I saved the biggest (and most obvious) reason for last. The two-time defending-champion Penguins have more depth, poise, and overall talent, and their star players shine in big moments. They also have better coaching, and much better goaltending than their cross-state rivals. That said, the Penguins have defensive flaws of their own, and that will make it difficult for them to repeat.