Some interesting statistics from the series:
Goal differential was 18-16. Let's not forget how close the series was, as disappointing as the ending turned out to be.
Gagne-Richards-Knuble was -10 for the series (ouch).
Hartnell-Carter-Lupul was -3
The 3rd and 4th lines were +3 combined.
So apparently the difference in the series didn't come down to depth players after all.
Fleury - 2.39 GAA, .922 save percentage.
Biron - 2.56 GAA , .919 save percentage.
Flyers: 4 for 30
Pens: 4 for 32
Overall, this was an incredibly close and exciting series, where the Pens have been the first to admit they got all they could handle and more. If the puck bounces a different direction once or twice in the series, we're looking at a different outcome, entirely.
My take on what happened in Game 6
With the cold hard numbers starting us in the face -- what exactly went wrong? Everything pointed to the change in momentum going the Flyer's way.
Here's the issue as I see it. Watching nearly every broadcast game for the team in the last two years, the one glaring deficiency the team has is that it does not have a good strategy for how to play with a lead.
Is there anyone else who watched this team the past year, who didn't notice how many times the Flyers score the first 1-2 goals and ended up losing the game?
It's almost like there are two different Flyers: the team that can generate goals in bunches, has elite offensive ability and depth, and one of the top 3 youngest rosters in the NHL. Who can turn in incredibly gritty performances, and best the elite teams in the NHL, even when those teams are at their best. The team which can come from behind against the stingiest defensive teams in the league. A team that is as loose as loose can be on the bench and between periods, for whom pressure doesn't seem to exist. A team that for much of the season was the 2nd most heavily penalized, and in near miraculous fashion turned that deficit into an advantage with the most feared penalty killing units in NHL history.
Then there's the lackadaisical, disorganized team that gives back 2-3 goal leads in a matter of minutes, gets scored on in the opening and closing seconds of periods. The team that runs into each other, and dumps pucks onto the sticks of opposing forecheckers, and gives up embarrassing goals at the worst possible moments.
With this much talent and upside, salary cap or no salary cap, what happened should not have happened, but it is hardly a surprise to any of us who have watched the team play. The pundits call this "lack of consistency" but it has been anything but inconsistent. Other teams simply believe that against the Flyers, they will always have a chance to come back from a deficit, because the team is unable to muster a consistent defensive strategy when they are playing with a lead. With all the discussion about *that missing player or two*, which seems to me not unlike chasing one's own tail, the game of hockey has always been about systems and strategies, as much as its been about individual talent. With all the analysis that has been done by the Flyers coaching staff on how to play special teams situations, it was the meat an potatoes things that lost the series for a team that I truly believe had more top to bottom talent than the team they just lost to, which we can all agree is loaded with elite young talent.
If the Flyers could have won a few more faceoffs -- if they could have trapped better, if they could have exposed the mid-ice pressure more effectively when the Pens were desperate, we'd be sitting around talking about who we hoped to see next, rather than crying in our beers and wondering what happened. As exciting a team as we have, I don't see any of this changing until the team learns how to play with and hold onto a lead.