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Flyers-Penguins recap: in which ALMOST everything you know about Flyers-Penguins is questioned

This was hardly a Flyers-Penguins game, but it WAS a Flyers loss, so nothing too far out of the ordinary there.

"Wait, why are there goalies and defensemen actually stopping me? That wasn't part of the deal..."
"Wait, why are there goalies and defensemen actually stopping me? That wasn't part of the deal..."
Vincent Pugliese

At around the 9:22 mark of the third period, NBC Sports announcer Doc Emrick referred to this game as a "good, defensive-minded contest".

Not a normal thing to hear said about Flyers-Penguins, is it?

But it was true. Completely breaking character from almost every Flyers-Penguins game over the last two and a half seasons or so, tonight's game involved actual defense and goaltending and stuff you see in most hockey games that you don't usually see when these two teams play each other. No massive fights or random binges of goals or awful goaltending. Just defensive, tightly-played hockey. It was weird.

Alas, with the way this season's gone, the only thing that wasn't weird was seeing Tyler Kennedy snipe a shot past Ilya Bryzgalov with 2:27 left in overtime to hand the Flyers their eighteenth loss of the season. Sadly, the annual tradition of ending a long Penguins winning streak will not be continued this year. Looks like the five-day break hasn't changed much in the way of the Flyers' fortunes.


* Danny Briere and Nicklas Grossmann both missed tonight's game with upper-body injuries that we didn't know about until today. Come out of a five-day break and end with two more players injured. Only the Flyers.

* Without Grossmann, Peter Laviolette leaned real heavy on his top three defenseman. Luke Schenn (28:29!), Braydon Coburn (25:24) and Kimmo Timonen (23:26) combined to log the vast majority of the minutes tonight. Here's hoping whatever Grossmann has isn't a long-term problem.

* That said, a few guys did seem to have a little extra in their step tonight. Five-day layoff did some people wonders.

* Tonight's game was the first Flyers-Penguins game in which there were no first-period goals for either team since October 7, 2010. Including the playoffs, the Flyers and Penguins have played 20 games since that one. Defense never seemed so out of place.

* Claude Giroux's second-period goal that finally opened up the scoring was amusing. He and Tanner Glass basically executed a give-and-go and Giroux fired it past Fleury. Sadly, only goal of the night, but that's two straight games with a tally for the captain. Claude got his fair share of ice time tonight, with 25:24 on the ice.

* Ilya Bryzgalov was absolutely fantastic tonight. In a game where Pittsburgh definitely controlled the majority of play, Bryz made an unreal amount of great saves across all three periods, and it's tough to fault him on either goal he let in -- one from Crosby on a 5-on-3, one off a really pretty shot from Tyler Kennedy in overtime. Gosh, it's so weird that the goalie plays well after he gets a bit of rest. Maybe we should try giving him that more often.

* Refs were letting a lot go in this one. Of note were two particularly egregious no-calls at the end of the third period, one each way -- a blatant cross-check by Brooks Orpik on Jakub Voracek right in front of the Penguins' net, shortly followed by a very bad boarding by Coburn on Pascal Dupuis in the Flyers' end. Wouldn't be too surprised to see Coburn get a call from Shanahan regarding the latter, but who knows at this point.

* Two penalties that were NOT let go that killed the Flyers at the tail end of the third included a slash by Wayne Simmonds shortly followed by a hook on a breakaway by Kimmo Timonen. Awful timing on both of those. Reports post-game were that Laviolette was particularly unhappy with the slash on Simmonds, though it seemed fair to me.

* Without having to face his personal nemesis, Evgeni Malkin (who was also out with an upper-body injury), Sean Couturier's stretch of limited ice time continued tonight. He played 11:47 in total, less than any Flyer not named Fedotenko, Foster or Zolnierczyk. I still don't get it.

* In their last six games, not including shootouts, the Flyers have scored 1, 2, 1, 2, 3 and 0 goals. Not exactly a winning strategy there offensively.

With the charity point, the Flyers sit 13th in the Eastern Conference and 26th overall in the league. And yet they're still only five points out of a playoff spot with 17 games to play. Still a lot of ways that this season can go, but they're running out of time.

Questions with Answers:

1. With Evgeni Malkin out, how does Peter Laviolette match his lines vs. the Penguins? Not a ton of structure to it, best I can tell. Everyone got some time against that Crosby line, it looked like.

2. How do the Flyers come out of the gate after nearly a week off? Tough to answer? The Pens definitely controlled the game's flow, including in the first period. But it seemed like some guys had a bit more of a hop in their step.

3. How do the lines shakeup with Danny Briere out of the lineup? Read-Giroux-Voracek, Simmonds-Schenn-Gagne, Hartnell-Talbot-Rinaldo, Fedotenko-Couturier-Zolnierczyk. That third line was just bizarre.

4. Jake Voracek, still Jake Scoracek? An assist on the lone goal of the night. Good enough.

Comment of the Night:

Someone should repost the audio of this game with a bleep every time Crosby is mentioned.

-- Chemistry66, commenting on the rather typical amount of Penguins slobbering from Doc and Pierre this evening

Back at it on Tuesday night against the Rangers at the WFC. 7:30 start time. Go Flyers.