/insert five-hole joke here
Last night sucked. You're probably hung over -- whether it's from alcohol or frustration -- today as a result, and the sad truth is that the Flyers still have to win a hockey game against the Pittsburgh Penguins before advancing to the Eastern Conference Semifinals. There are legitimate reasons to be upset and there are legitimate reasons to be worried, just as there are legitimate reasons to be optimistic and confident.
Let's go through them. We'll start with the bad stuff.
Malkin and Crosby coming alive. If there's one concern that really bugs me coming off last night's game, it was the Flyers' inability to contain Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby. Those guys looked possessed -- Malkin in particular -- all game long and if there's any pair of players in the NHL who can completely take over a game, it's those two.
I worry about Sean Couturier's play last night, and the coincidence that he finally had a bad game immediately after taking a hit that may have caused a serious head injury. The Flyers absolutely, positively need to stop those two if they want to beat Pittsburgh, and Coots is a big part of that. The biggest part, really.
Getting James Neal back. Pittsburgh's getting Neal back in Game 4 (because the NHL's Department of Player Safety is a joke) and he's the one player who actually made an consistant impact in the first three games of the series. Neal is really good at putting pucks in the net, and it's scary to think Pittsburgh scored 10 goals in a game without him.
Goaltending. You couldn't have watched last night's game without getting worried about the goaltending situation. False narratives and Michael Leighton bullshit aside, Ilya Bryzgalov looked awful in Game 4, and there's no doubt a real concern about his game. He looked beaten on every single puck, his lateral movement was perhaps the worst we've ever seen it, and it literally seemed like every shot on goal was headed for the back of the net.
"Confidence:" You might argue that the Penguins have it. Your argument would be valid.
Nicklas Grossmann is hurt. Grossmann has been a big part in shutting down the Pens' top players as well, and it looks like he's going to be out for Game 4 with what many are suspecting to be a concussion. He could miss more time than just that, too. Andrej Meszaros would be nice to have right about now, but he's not due back for at least another couple of weeks. In the meantime, the Flyers are going to have to deal without Grossmann if he is indeed injured, and they're likely going to have to replace him with Erik Gustafsson or Oskars Bartulis. That's what they call a drop off.
Alright, enough. Let's get positive here.
For everybody upset about the goaltending ... Marc-Andre Fleury played two periods of shutout hockey in Game 4, and his save percentage is still worse than Ilya Bryzgalov's in the series. For as bad as Bryzgalov has been, Fleury has been worse, and it's not like the Flyers exactly tested him in the second and third periods last night when he did put together that stretch of shutout hockey. He's not very good.
On the road. It's not just that the Flyers have a great record all-time at CONSOL Energy Center. The Flyers are frankly a different team on the road, where ever that may be, and that even manifested itself in Games 1 and 2 of this series, despite the lopsided scores. Away from Wells Fargo Center, the Flyers play a calm, calculated style of hockey.
They don't let deficits get to them (obviously), they don't try to be fancy with the puck. They're much more workmanlike on road ice than they are on home ice, and with Game 5 coming in Pittsburgh, it might just work out to their benefit. They know this is a series now, even if Pittsburgh needs three straight wins to move on, and the Flyers will need to focus on business if they want to pull out a win tomorrow night. Being on the road might be the best medicine.
The Flyers can score. If you forgot, the Flyers scored have scored eight goals in a game on two separate occasions in this series. They've proven that they can score on the power play -- even last night, their power play was phenomenal -- and they're probably getting James van Riemsdyk back for Game 5 if reports from practice today are any indication. Even without the goaltending, this team can keep right up with the Pens in terms of putting pucks in the net, even if they did not do so last night.
"Confidence:" Would you say that the Flyers had confidence going into Game 4? That the Flyers had confidence in the first period of Game 4? It can change very, very quickly. All it takes is a single bounce or a single play.
History. As much as 2010 is on our minds today, 0-3 comebacks just don't happen. Yeah, the Flyers did it two years ago. That was a bizarre thing. Three teams have done it ... like, ever. In all of hockey history.
Sure, two teams came back from 0-3 down to force Game 7's a year ago, but they didn't pull off the comeback. It's really, really hard to win four games in a row in the postseason, and the Flyers are a very good hockey team. The Penguins are a very good team as well, but let's not forget that the Flyers are pretty damn awesome at this game too.
The Flyers couldn't win their fourth straight game last night, despite everything rolling in their favor. It might seem like Pittsburgh has everything rolling in their favor right now, but two things remain true: a) teams don't win four straight games in the playoffs all that often (12 times in 90 total playoff series since the lockout), and teams come back from 0-3 deficits even less often.
The fact remains that the Flyers are up 3-1 in the series. They need to win one of their next three games, and this Flyers team has never lost more than one game in a row to these Penguins. They've played ten times since the beginning of the season and the good guys have won seven of those games.
Even better: Guess how many times the Flyers lost three straight games this season? One time. They lost three straight games from February 4 to February 7 against the Devils, Rangers and Islanders (in a shootout). They haven't lost four straight games all season long, despite the drastic ups-and-downs we experienced with this team this year.
Looking elsewhere, the Rangers are suddenly in a best-of-three series with the Ottawa Senators, the Devils are losing their series to the Panthers (who are awful) and the Bruins are in a pretty tough battle with the Capitals (who are also awful).
Despite losing by seven goals on Wednesday night, the Flyers are actually in very, very good shape. They're a good hockey team that needs to win one of their next three games. If they can't do that, they don't belong in the playoffs anyway.