Wednesday, April 18, 2012

5 Keys to Game 4

Let's face it. Tonight is a decisive game for the Flyers. They can close out the series in 4 games tonight. They can eliminate the odds on cup favorite tonight. But the Penguins aren't going to go down without a fight. Literally and figuratively. So here are the 5 players the game hinges on.

1. Marc-Andre Fleury
The Penguins has played terribly for the first 3 games in this series. And if the Penguins expect to extend their season by even a game, Fleury needs to turn his play around. Fleury is a Stanley Cup winner, so he knows what it takes to get there. But his play has not been up to par. In fact, his play has been some of the worst in recent Cup playoff memory. And I don't think that terrible play will extend to 4 games. I don't think he'll be perfect, but I also don't foresee another 8 goal game for the Flyers. Which brings us to important player number 2.

2. Ilya Bryzgalov
Bryzgalov has played well enough to win in this series. But that won't be good enough tonight. Bryzgalov and the Flyers have allowed the first goal in every game this series. That also won't be good enough tonight. Tonight the Flyers need a game from the Bryzgalov we were seeing a month ago. A shutout would be nice, but I would settle for only allowing a goal or two. Regardless, i don't think the 4th game will be the goal fest that the first 3 have been. So a good game in net is imperative for Bryz.

3. Claude Giroux
Claude Giroux has been a dominant force in this series. He has a hat trick. He also has a Gordie Howe hat trick. But more importantly, he has been unstoppable in this series. He is racking up the playoff points and goals. And he is establishing himself as a true force in the NHL. A player who can take a hit, get back up, and take it to the opponent. It's time for the Penguins to wake up and realize that Giroux is coming. And a goal or two tonight will go a long way in deciding this series.

4. Sidney Crosby

You can admire his fine ability to grow a playoff beard in the picture above. But regardless of facial hair prowess, when Crosby isn't acting like a child who can hide behind Mommy's, I mean the refs legs, Crosby is a scoring force on the ice. And if he realizes that he can do his team more good scoring than he can trying to start a fight, this could be a long game for the Flyers. The Penguins offense shows up for the 1st period of every game, then strangely disappears. If Crosby decides to play a whole game, and can convince a couple of other Penguins to do the same, they can make this a tough go for the Flyers.

5. Malkin vs. Coturier
 Evgeni Malkin was unstoppable in the regular season. No one scored more goals than he did. And coming into this playoff series, the biggest worry among many for the Flyers was how to stop him. In stepped Sean Coturier, a 19 year old rookie. Most people would have hoped for a goal a game with a rookie sticking to Malkin. But he has been stymied by Coturier. A couple of assists is all he's shown in this series. In fact, Coturier has been the better player in this series. He's notched his first career hat trick in this series, and held the NHL's top scorer to practically nothing. If he can keep this up, The Flyers should be in good shape tonight.
So there you have it. The Flyers have a chance to close out the series, and give themselves a little rest. Thoroughly deserved rest. With how physical the playoffs have been so far, rest could give the Flyers a decisive advantage in the 2nd round of the playoffs. So here's my prediction, 3-2 Flyers. Get out the brooms Philly, we're going to the 2nd round.

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