Flyers-Penguins: Game 4 Postgame Review
The Penguins streak of scoring five goals in wins over the Flyers continued in Game 4, as the Flyers season officially moved to the brink.
In the biggest game of the season, the Flyers came out flat and lazed their way through the majority of the 5-0 loss to the Penguins.
The end of the season is now in sight and the Flyers possible final act in front of the Wells Fargo Center crowd was another embarrassing showing with no effort.
Let's hit it with our Postgame Review.
- Effort Level: Embarrassing - It's Game 4, down 2-1 in the series on home ice. This is the game that is either going to make it a series again or essentially be the beginning of the end.The effort the Flyers turned in -- in their most crucial game of the season -- was pathetic and inexcusable.
Forget the opposition and the fact that on paper and on the ice, the Penguins are the better team. You might not win Game 4 with your best effort. But you better damn well try.
This is where we find the Philadelphia Flyers in this series. No effort, no energy and a building, deservedly, booing the team right off the ice.
The game turned late in the first period. Despite being down 1-0 as the result of an early power-play goal, the Flyers were starting to get their legs and put together a couple dominant shifts, especially from the new-look top line. The Flyers lose the puck in the offensive zone and Travis Sanheim is caught, allowing the Penguins to transition with speed with Evgeni Malkin leading the rush and Phil Kessel charging to his right. Malkin feeds Kessel, who gets off a quick shot. Brian Elliott looks unsure as to how to try to make the save -- half upright, half down -- and the puck hits off the inside of his pad, rolls off the post and in.
In just seconds, the Flyers went from pressing for the tying goal to down 2-0. They took a penalty moments later and killed it off. Travis Konecny came out of the box and got a feed from Claude Giroux. Breakaway, a chance to wake the crowd up and turn the tide. Murray made the save, but...
Olli Maatta cleared the puck out of play for a delay of game penalty immediately after. So late in the period, the Flyers go to the power play with a chance to get on the board. Just seven seconds into the power play, Wayne Simmonds took a slashing penalty. As minor as it appeared, by the rule the officials were given at the beginning of the season, it is a penalty and has been called as such all season. The power play was over.
From there, the Flyers seemed like the tanks had been emptied. There was no more push or effort. Game over.
If there is anything the Flyers have shown under Dave Hakstol, it's that when games start to get out of hand or frustration takes over, something happens to this team. In the old days under literally any previous head coach, it would usually be some form of barbaric activity and extracurriculars, the old "if we're not going to be you on the board, we're going to beat you up" culture. Now, the Flyers seem to just quit.
It happens to even the best teams, the one night where things aren't completely going your way, you don't get the bounces and you have to acknowledge that it wasn't your best night. But for those teams, it's a game that happens in between lengthy winning streaks and happens in the middle of a marathon of a hockey season. It may be December, January or February, but every team has those nights in the middle of a season.
In the playoffs, it's different. You don't make the playoffs and give an effort like that. The Flyers did, in the biggest game of the season, in front of their home fans no less, for what could be the final time. That's some way to leave the home crowd.
- Goaltending - The carousel continues. Brian Elliott got the start again as expected and quickly allowed a power-play goal on a smooth passing play by the Penguins.It was Kessel's goal that was the game-changer, in more ways than one.
Kessel's goal not only wiped out the Flyers effort, it was once again a shot that Elliott needs to stop.
Which brings me back to the breakaway for Konecny. Matt Murray was way out of his crease and cut down any angle. Elliott looked unsure of himself as Kessel came in and got a shot off. That was one that needed to be stopped and wasn't again.
When Elliott allowed another goal -- albeit one that hit Andrew MacDonald's stick to beat him -- that was the end of his night, the second time in the series he has been pulled from a start. This time, it was Michal Neuvirth on the bench, so enter the Flyers third goalie of the series.
That simply fits the narrative -- the endless goalie carousel keeps spinning around and around.
- Penguins Stars Shine Again - Evgeni Malkin scored the first goal. Phil Kessel scored the second goal. Kris Letang scored the third goal. Sidney Crosby scored the fourth goal.As expected, the Penguins star players showed up again. It is to be expected when you face the Penguins.
On the Flyers end, the best players were Nolan Patrick, Travis Konecny and I'll give a nod to Scott Laughton as well, who looked strong on his skates, a rarity in the game for anyone on the Flyers roster.
See the problem?
Whether it's just a lack of effort or injury, the Flyers veteran leaders have been invisible throughout the series and it continued in Game 4. You need your best players to truly rise to the occasion in the playoffs. The Penguins have gotten that and then some. The Flyers best players have been a disappointment.
- Coaching - So much of what is wrong with the Flyers in this series has to do with coaching. This isn't decision-making half as much as it is system.Dave Hakstol doesn't have a system that can stop the Penguins, or even slow it down. The Flyers don't have the speed. They don't have the skill. They don't have the physicality. That was established in Game 1. But the Flyers won Game 2 by being aggressive in the neutral zone and trying to stop the Penguins chances before they started.
You can't play passive and hope for the best. You have to attack the game head on. When Hakstol was hired, there was a lot of talk about compete level. The Flyers had no compete level in Game 4.
That's where the frustration in this series lies. Mike Sullivan saw the Flyers attack the Penguins in Game 2, succeed on the power play, limit chances in the neutral zone and made adjustments before Game 3. Even after a 5-1 win, he wasn't satisfied. There were still things to clean up and more adjustments were made.
On the Flyers end, the effort and strategy from Game 2 remained present at the start of Game 3 until the Flyers didn't get a break and were behind in the game after a solid first period. They abandoned it all from there, and there was no adjustment from Hakstol.
The Flyers don't have a singular glaring issue. There are multiple issues. The veterans aren't finding a way to make an impact in a playoff series. The goaltending has been sub-par again. Special teams has been a disaster. And the coaching hasn't made the proper adjustments to try to correct any of these issues.
It's a lot easier to look at Travis Konecny or Nolan Patrick and see a mistake and understand that there is a growth process that needs to take place. As the series has progressed, Patrick has certainly improved, even if the team has not. Hakstol is still going through that growth process as an NHL coach. The problem is that learning on the job as the bench boss isn't something that can be understood.
The Flyers can't speed up the development of individual players who are still in their teens. Rushing a player into the picture may not be worth it for the long-term picture, and quite frankly, one prospect isn't going to make all the difference. For a coach, however, it needs to happen faster, especially as the players who are going to have the biggest impact on your future are starting to arrive.
- Stick a Fork in Them - When a series reaches the 3-1 margin that this one is at now, there's a voice in your head that ultimately gives you a reality check. It's no longer about if the Flyers can win the series. It's when the season comes to an end.After watching this kind of effort, this series isn't going to make it beyond Friday.
Sure, there's always a chance that the Flyers could steal another game in Pittsburgh, but have they given any reason to believe that?
At this point, it's going to be more going through the motions than anything else.
Kevin Durso is Flyers editor for SportsTalkPhilly.com. Follow him on Twitter @Kevin_Durso.