Better With Popcorn

Philadelphia Wins Special Teams Battle in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals

Coming into Wednesday night’s Eastern Conference Quarterfinals matchup between the Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins, many were quick to praise the Penguins for their multi-faceted attack.

This is especially true when speaking of special teams.

The one facet that seemed to be hyped more than any other phase of the game was how lethal the Penguins specialty units potentially could be.

Throwing out their fifth ranked power play and third ranked penalty kill as evidence, it was commonly believed that if the penalty prone Flyers allowed the Penguins to get man-advantages that the series would quickly be over.

Following the Flyers dramatic come-from-behind victory in Game 1, those people may want to reconsider their stance on the issue.

To put it simply, the Flyers dominated the special teams play on Wednesday night and it was a huge reason that they managed to steal Game 1.

After opening the game in the worst possible fashion by allowing three goals in the first 20 minutes of play, the Flyers started the second period even further behind the eight-ball when Claude Giroux was called for boarding in the first three minutes of the stanza.

Not only did the penalty give the Penguins the opportunity to put the game even further out of reach, but it also took Giroux, arguably the Flyers best penalty killer, off the ice.

Despite all of that, the team managed to weather the storm and scored their first goal of the series 1:18 after killing the penalty.

Four minutes later, the Flyers found themselves shorthanded again this time due to a crosschecking call on Zac Rinaldo, which gave the Penguins an opportunity to regain their three-goal lead.

Once again, the Flyers killed off the disadvantage and managed to enter the final 20 minutes of play down by two.

However, much like the first and second periods before it, the third period opened with a Philadelphia miscue when Jaromir Jagr was called for interference 1:49 into the final stanza.

Yet again, the Flyers killed off the attack by the ‘lethal’ Penguins specialty unit.

Around the midway mark of the period, the game reached the turning point.

After Danny Briere scored his second goal at 9:17, the Flyers were finally awarded their first power play of the game when Brooks Orpik was called for interference at 10:41.

With only 18 seconds remaining on the power play, Brayden Schenn tied the game and paved the way for the dramatic overtime finish.

Despite three separate opportunities to score their fourth goal of the game, the star-studded Pittsburgh power play failed to make a single dent on the score sheet.

Often bookmarked as the one true advantage in the series, the Penguins third ranked power play failed to capitalize on the 17th ranked Philadelphia penalty kill.

Not to mention, that the underrated Flyers power play managed to score on their only advantage of the game against the highly touted, Penguins penalty kill.

For any one looking at the season series between the two teams, this development was not a surprise.

While the Penguins may have faired well over the course of the regular season, they struggled against Philadelphia in both the power play and penalty kill. 

This was made apparent on Wednesday night.

Ultimately, Briere’s goals were crucial in the Flyers win. Yet, it can’t be overlooked how important it was that the Flyers special teams managed to finish the night with a 100% rating in both phases of the game.

It could prove to be one of the most important occurrences in this series when all is said and done.

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