And we’re back! There’s still more to talk about! What comes after the regular season? You know this already, it’s the playoffs.
Fresh off another first round exit, the playoff talk was brought out in droves. What went wrong? What went right? And what had the potential to be just a little better? The players have answers for you.
I bemoaned this a lot as recently as last night, as we saw it swing back around to burn the Capitals in their second round opener, so maybe it’s worth starting here—the Penguins’ quick strike offense. They can generate offense faster than most of the teams in the league, and the Flyers just weren’t ready for that. And Shayne Gostisbehere had some words about that, too:
I mean they score one goal and we drop the puck and they score another one and you’re like what the hell just happened. They’re just so high offensively powered, you look at not even their top six, their top nine. Their third line would be a first or second line on any other team in the NHL, but we knew that going in, we knew they were gonna score goals, we knew they were gonna make plays. It was about limiting the chances and most importantly the mistakes that we did cause as you could see in that series every mistake that we made, they capitalized on.
First of all, same. “What the hell just happened?” My thoughts exactly.
But the real point here is that of the Flyers being prepared to limit chances, as well as being able to hit reset immediately after giving one up. To give up one goal or opportunity is one thing, but to let themselves remain exposed to being burned again, that’s another. Before you know it, you’re deep in a hole and scrambling to do much of anything, trying to get something going to get out.
So the other side of that equation, then, is the Flyers and closing on their own chances. Because they didn’t spend the whole series scrambling around on the ice just trying to keep up with Pittsburgh, they had some quality chances of their own, as Travis Konecny notes:
I think they were exposed. I think we had them right there… obviously their experience helps them. They’ve won back to back Stanley Cups so they know what they’re doing, but I think there was times in the series where we had them, maybe Game 3 at home, the first 10 minutes, we had them exposed, didn’t put one in the net there and then that last Game 6 again we had them exposed. Things like that, they knew how to close out some games and we were put in certain situations.
And maybe it’s experience, or preparation, or something else entirely, but the Flyers just weren’t as well equipped to exploit the chances that the Penguins were giving up. Wayne Simmonds reiterates this:
I think our problem is just consistency, they got up a couple goals. We didn’t do a good job of fighting back in the game I think in the last 2 games of the series you see we get down or we’re tied, and we showed a lot of resilience. I think this series would’ve probably went 7 games if we had started out a little bit earlier in the series, but it went the way it went. I’m very proud of every single guy on this team, we battled, and I think the development of the young kids was a huge reason we made the playoffs. Throughout the year as they got better our team got better, I think that’s a great start for all these young guys to get into a playoff series into their experience especially against the 2-time defending Stanley Cup champions. They have instant offense where if you make one mistake it’s in the back of your net so I thought we did a good job.
At the risk of sounding like we’re painting the Flyers as an inexperienced team who just didn’t stand a chance and were completely out of their depth, it feels important to underscore the sentiments above—that they were close, they had their own chances, and even if they couldn’t close on them, they learned from all this.
But this doesn’t leave them faultless, and as far as blame goes, it seems like there’s a fair share to go around, or, at least if you ask the Captain:
It’s not on the defense for allowing that many goals, it’s not on the goalie, it’s not on the forwards, it’s on everybody. Everybody on same page, there’s six guys on the ice and we just have to do a better job of defending. Pittsburgh, they can score a lot of goals, they’ve done it in a lot of years and that’s what they do best. It’s not the game defensively that we want, we’re going to keep building.
For him, it’s not a question of, if they had shored up one area, they would have made more of an impact. Everybody needed to do a better job at defending, and at closing out the scoring deficit. Everyone on the ice had the chance to be the next one to make an impact, but they just couldn’t seem to get it done.
Part of this struggle, additionally, may come down to players pressing when they found themselves falling behind and failing to generate as much as they want or need to, Jakub Voracek says:
I think you try to be not thinking about it because you’re like, ‘OK, it’s a playoff game. I’m gonna do my best.’ When you’re losing a game and when it’s hard to get something going in the offensive zone, then you start thinking about it. ‘Oh, well I’m not helping my team the way I’m supposed to.’ I think it shows how good this team was this year that even with me or G or Simmer was obviously hurt, but Ghost, even if we didn’t have a great playoffs we basically almost pushed the Stanley Cup champions into a Game 7. I would say the future is bright and there’s a lot of players that are gonna be game-changers in the future.
So we also return to that silver lining of potential and gained experience. We see a team here that struggled at times, and weren’t able to come up with a push big enough to get them to a Game 7, or the next round. But the other side of that is the fact that this young team pushed the defending champions and gave them a fair bit of trouble, even in a losing effort. And this bodes well for their next showing—like Jake said, the future is bright.