Wednesday, April 18, 2012

What does history tell us about a large margin of victory in the playoffs?

Since the end of the lockout in 2005, there have been 9 playoff series where a game was decided by a six or seven goal margin (all were six other than the Bruins win over the Canucks in the Cup Finals last year).

In all but one of those series, the team that lost by 6 or 7 goals in any game lost the series.

Or, to put it another way, the team that won by 6 or 7 goals in a game won every series but one.

I think the Pens still have a big hill to climb, and their chances aren't good, but at least this gives us something to hang our hats on until Friday night.

Here's the list of prior teams who lost big in a game (the loser is first):

  • 2011 Pens vs Lightning
  • 2011 Canucks vs Bruins
  • 2010 Sharks vs Red Wings (Sharks won series)
  • 2010 Canadiens vs Flyers
  • 2008 Avalanche vs Red Wings
  • 2008 Flyers vs Penguins
  • 2007 Thrashers vs Rangers
  • 2006 Flyers vs Sabres (x2)
  • 2006 Devils vs Hurricanes

Penguins adapt, force Game 5

Real life still removing time to blog, but this one was too much fun to pass up.

There were two really encouraging signs to point to from this game:

  • Flower improved as the game went along, looking much more like his normal self in the later part of the second and the third period.  The team played much better defensively as well.
  • The Pens adjusted to how the refs were calling the game.  After the first period where the Flyers scored three times on the power play, the Pens were not short-handed the rest of the night.  The Flyers took four more penalties in the second period before they learned, but the Pens had built a four-goal lead by that point.

Game 5 is on Friday night.  It won't be this easy, but I think they'll find a way to force a Game 6.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Flyers 4, Penguins 3 (OT)

Inconsistency has been the hallmark of this team in over the past month.  That was the defining characteristic again last night.

The first period was excellent.  After that, things were not so good.

The Pens jumped out to a 3-0 lead after one period.  They dominated the game over the first 10 minutes, scoring twice and forcing Laviolette to call timeout.  I thought when the Pens scored late in the first to make it 3-0 that they were on their way.

It was not to be, however.  Danny Briere scored on a breakaway, though he was clearly offside.  He scored again in the third period on a flukey goal from the half-wall when Sid screened Fleury and neither could stop the shot.  That was when you had an idea that things might not work out well.  Briere also was plastered by Brooks Orpik, drawing the Flyers only power play chance, which they converted to tie the game at 3-3.

I won't even talk about the OT.

The power play let them down as well.  The Pens had three chances but weren't able to generate a serious threat.  They look good on the rush, but if the Flyers sit back and force the Pens to set up and make a play in the zone, they're not able to do it.  That needs to be better.  It was what killed them last year against the Lightning.

The main problem is that the Flyers focused on playing hockey and the Pens weren't able to match them in the latter two periods.  That's the key for the rest of the series - can the Pens find a way to dictate the play?  When they do, they put themselves in a great spot to win games.  When they don't, like last night, things don't go well.

If they aren't able to figure it out, this series won't go very well either.

Friday, April 06, 2012

Final playoff seeding and what about Saturday?

With the win over the Rangers last night, the Pens will have the #4 seed, giving them home ice in the first round.

The Flyers, by virtue of their win over the Sabres, will be the #5 seed.

What does that mean for the game tomorrow?  I have some questions:

Do you play Crosby and Letang?  Both players have had multiple incidents with concussions.  It wouldn't be worth it to lose one of them over something stupid.  If there ever were a team that would try something stupid, it would be the Flyers.

Does Malkin play?  I think this is more likely.  He's going for 50 goals, and he usually takes care of himself pretty well.  I'd put him out there in limited minutes, and in offensive situations like the power play, offensive zone draws or after the Flyers ice the puck.

Is this a Brent Johnson game?  I think that's much more of a no-brainer.  Fleury has played a ton of games this year, and he's your horse in the playoffs.  I think you give Johnson another game.  The only problem I see with this is that Fleury will have played just once in 10 days leading up to Game 1 (assuming it is Wednesday or Thursday).

Does the outcome matter?  If the Pens play their horses and win, does it change the feeling of the Flyers heading into Round 1?  Worse yet, if they play everyone and lose, does it deflate the Pens at all?  I'd be much more worried about the latter.

Will the Flyers use the meaningless game to respond?  Given how upset they supposedly were over Vitale's hit the other night, will they try a bunch of dumb stuff when the outcome doesn't matter?  He's a clue to watch out - Jody Shelley and Zac Rinaldo line up for the opening faceoff.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Playoff scenarios for the Pens - Thursday edition

Real life has kept me from blogging much recently.  Unfortunately, that isn't getting any better, so this will need to be quick.

Here's what you need to know:

  • First and foremost, the Pens can take care of business by earning two points tonight against the Rangers.  That would render the Saturday game meaningless as far as home ice advantage goes, as any combination of two points earned by the Pens or lost by the Flyers would seal the deal for the #4 seed for the Pens.
  • If the Flyers lose both games and the Devils win both of theirs, the Devils would vault over the Flyers into the #5 spot and play the Penguins in the first round.

So for tonight, obviously cheer for the Pens to beat the Rangers (who have nothing to play for at this point).

Also cheer for Buffalo to beat Philadelphia, not only because it would assure the Pens of the #4 spot, but also because it would also keep the door open for a first round match up with Jersey, AND have the extra added bonus of moving the Capitals one step closer to not making the playoffs.  The Sabres and Caps are tied with two games left, but the Caps hold the tiebreaker.

Lastly, cheer for New Jersey to win in Detroit, at least if you'd rather see the Devils over the Flyers in the first round of the playoffs (I sure would).