Penguins Flounder in Opening Playoff Series

By Shawn Annarelli

The Penguins’ playoff series has been a lot like a scene from the movie Unstoppable.

In that movie, Rosario Dawson’s character suggests to Kevin Dunn’s character that a seemingly unstoppable train be derailed in lightly populated farmland. Dunn’s character decides to ignore Dawson, believing the train can still be stopped.

So, should Penguins fans jump ship before the team completely derails?

All indications point to inevitable defeat, but the answer is no.

As former Penguin Maxime Talbot said during postgame interviews, three wins doesn’t mean anything in the playoffs.

The Penguins still have a window of opportunity to get back into this series, but that window is closing fast.

It wasn’t long ago that Pittsburgh had encouraging three goal and two goal leads over Philadelphia in the first two games of the series. Then, the Flyers made improbable comebacks to jump ahead to a 2-0 advantage in the series.

The Flyers fed off of their first two victories in game three in Philadelphia to the tune of an 8-4 win. As the final minutes of game three waned, Philadelphia fans bellowed, “You can’t beat us,” to the Penguins.

They might be right with the way the Penguins are playing.

Marc-Andre Fleury has allowed 17 goals on 84 shots for a .798 save percentage. While the Penguins defense and fore-checking been less than stellar, the goalie still has to be a brick wall between the pipes in the playoffs.

Fleury has played more like a flower.

Defensive assignments have been regularly blown, too. On one Flyers goal on Sunday, Brooks Orpik abandoned his position to go for a hit, which allowed an easy Flyers’ one-timer.

In general, the defensive pairings have allowed Flyers to get behind them far too many times for breakaways. Fleury stopped the first three Flyers breakaways in game one, but has since left his quick glove and poke check in the locker room.

Pittsburgh’s forwards aren’t free of guilt either.

In Sunday’s epic loss, Penguins forward Craig Adams had a chance to clear the puck on a penalty kill, but he tried to pass the puck to open ice. No Penguin was there. Philadelphia’s Braydon Coburn gathered the puck, and Adams ran into the Penguin replacing him on a switch. This gave Coburn an easy cross-ice pass to Wayne Simmonds, who scored to put Philadelphia up 6-4.

Pittsburgh’s superstars have also been largely absent.

Sidney Crosby has two goals, but he only has five shots on goal in the series. Evgeni Mallkin still hasn’t found the net, because most of his shots are destined for the third row of seats.

The Penguins are also suddenly the most mentally weak team in the league. Forget that the team has lost three games in a row, in which they had leads in each. They’re also averaging over 32 penalty minutes per game in the playoffs. By comparison, they averaged just less than 11 penalty minutes per game during the regular season.

If Pittsburgh’s erratic play wasn’t enough, the team will also be without Craig Adams, James Neal and Aaron Asham for the remainder of the series. Asham crosschecked Philadephia’s Brayden Schenn in the face and punched the back o his head after falling down. Adams instigated a fight with Philadelphia’s Scottie Hartnell in the final minutes of the game. Neal appeared to be headhunting in game four and left two Flyers dazed after dirty hits.

The Penguins need to turn to each other and get back to their game.

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