PITTSBURGH — Five takeaways from the most embarrassing Game 1 loss in the Flyers’ playoff history, a 7-0 shellacking Wednesday night in Pittsburgh:
Time for changes
The Flyers worked so hard and played so well in the final four months of the regular season that it was hard to fathom them looking so flat, so passive, so overmatched in their playoff opener.
The Flyers’ top line was outplayed so badly that it screams for coach Dave Hakstol to make a change. Yes, it’s only one game, but in a playoff series, you don’t have the luxury of waiting to see if things will turn around. Hakstol needs to react. Now. The Flyers’ No. 1 unit, so dominating during the regular season, was a combined minus-11 and had just three shots. The line of Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier and Michael Raffl was outplayed by whichever unit it faced.
Pittsburgh’s No. 1 line — Sidney Crosby centering Jake Guentzel and Bryan Rust — combined for five goals, eight points and a plus-14 rating. Two of its goals were against Couturier’s unit.
The Flyers need more speed on the top line, so look for Travis Konecny to replace Raffl in Game 2 on Friday night. Konecny had 20 goals in his 41 games on that line in the regular season.
Paging Robert Hagg
The Flyers played without an edge. And there were too many times the Penguins were all alone in front. The Flyers could use defenseman Robert Hagg’s physicality. The question is, if he is inserted back into the lineup, will he be rusty from having sat out the last nine games?
At this point, it doesn’t matter. Give the rookie some playoff experience.
Elliott not ready
Speaking of rusty … From here, goalie Brian Elliott isn’t ready to play. Hey, he deserves lots of credit for trying to come back from core-muscle surgery, but he looks too rusty to be in the net.
When healthy and in rhythm, Elliott would be the obvious choice. But he missed almost two months after surgery, gallantly rushed back for the playoffs, but has not been close to being sharp — no matter how Hakstol tries to spin it.
Put Petr Mrazek in goal and hope he reverts to his playoff form with Detroit, where he had a 1.88 goals-against average and .931 save percentage in 10 postseason games.
After the loss, Hakstol said his instincts told him to put Elliott back into the lineup for Game 2. Maybe he meant it, but I have a feeling he will change his mind.
And, no, don’t phone Ilya Bryzgalov, who tweeted that he was available if the Flyers were interested.
The Flyers and the two-time defending Stanley Cup-champion Penguins were separated by just two points in the regular season. But Wednesday, it looked as if the Harlem Globetrotters were facing the Washington Generals.
The Penguins are in the Flyers’ heads. Pittsburgh has scored five goals or more in each of the five games against the Flyers this season. The Pens have won all five.
The Flyers, despite having a slew of veterans, looked jittery and were a turnover machine Wednesday, and the Penguins had the puck down at their end most of the game.
Look for Hakstol to add speed by inserting winger Jordan Weal back in the lineup Friday. Weal could move to the fourth line at left wing, with Scott Laughton shifting from LW back to center. That would make Jori Lehtera a healthy scratch, even though his fourth line played well Wednesday.
In four regular-season games against Pittsburgh, Weal had four points. No Flyer had more.
The Flyers’ power play struggled against the Penguins in the regular season, going 2 for 16 (12.5 percent). On Wednesday, their power play was the worst it has looked in any game this season. They had four power plays and zero shots. That is difficult to do.
The Flyers over-passed and looked disorganized, making it easy for the Penguins to clear the puck. Giroux pointed a finger at himself for the PP failures, but it looked like a collective effort.
Meanwhile, many Penguins said that their power play was ineffective — it went 1 for 4 — and that it will get better in Game 2.
Now that’s a scary thought.