Bad to Worse: Flyers Dropped by Pens on Poor D and Worse Goaltending

Bad to Worse: Flyers Dropped by Pens on Poor D and Worse Goaltending

We keep waiting for the Ilya Bryzgalov who was "near-elite" enough for the Flyers to sign to a 9-year, $51 million contract to emerge from a decidedly subpar shell and at least pull his weight. The team in front of him has its warts, particularly on defense, but it is good enough to be a real threat if it can get some good if not great goaltending. Unfortunately, as we saw again in Saturday's 6-4 loss, that is increasingly unlikely to happen.

Miscues led to far too many scoring opportunities for the Penguins, but from the beginning, the Flyers were charged with winning a game in which they'd have nothing resembling acceptable NHL goaltending.

Matt Cooke of all people got the scoring started with the first of three poor goals allowed by Bryzgalov. He'd score again later and be named the player of the game, probably, disgustingly, deservedly so. The first two Pens goals were each on clean shots that Bryz saw from start to finish. The third came on a turnover and a weak defensive effort by Kimmo Timonen, again on Cooke, but Bryzgalov did little to counter the effort, sitting in his crease rather than pouncing.

Despite the Flyers ending the first period up 2-1 after a pair of gorgeous goals by Jaromir Jagr, and heading into the second intermission tied at 3, they ended the afternoon as poorly as possible.

Sergei Bobrovsky was called to action in the third, and although his three goals allowed weren't quite as bad as Bryzgalov's, they still left plenty to be desired.

Again, the defense was insufficient. Newcomer Nicklas Grossman wasn't a weakness, and that's at least a good sign. But carelessness with the puck was an issue, as were second effort opportunities.

Three third period goals put the Penguins up by a comfortable margin, although if anyone was going to tally a meaningless late goal, we're glad it was Wayne Simmonds. Simmer scored his eighth goal in nine games with 19 seconds left, again from the doorstep.

The scoring is not a problem. The defense, from the forwards to the blueliners, is. The goaltending is. Right now, the Flyers are about as good as their place in the standings. The skaters came to the defense of their goaltenders in the locker room, and they need to do a better job of that on the ice.

But they also need far better goaltending behind them, no matter how many swords they're willing to fall on with the press.

Video:

Notes:
The Flyers absolutely suck in afternoon games, now sitting at 4-10-1. That's more than half of their regulation losses this season, and they've allowed five or more goals in seven of those games.

Eric Wellwood had a fun first NHL goal, taking advantage of Dave Engelland's lost edge in front of his own net and popping one home.

One game after Erik Gustafsson became the seventh Flyer to score his first NHL goal this season, Wellwood became the eighth. 

Good god I wish this recap could focus more on Jagr's pair of goals. He looked so good early, halting his momentum to stop just fast enough to snap wristers over MAF's shoulders at will.

Nick Grossman somehow managed to be the only Flyers d-man with a plus rating, however much stock you give that stat. He also had eight hits and three blocked shots.

Kimmo missed some shifts in the third period. No word on exactly why, but it was not his best day, by far.

Another terribly reffed game by Stephane Auger, and the Pens have a right to say the same. When will the league 86 this guy?

How bad were the Flyers today? They allowed a goal while on a 5-on-3, one of two shorthanded goals they allowed in less than two minutes. Both came with Bryz in net. Humongous bad.

Midway through the game, the Flyers-Rick Nash rumors heated up again...

Bryzgalov's comments to the press should go over famously.

NHL Playoffs: Penguins beat Senators in 2OT of Game 7 to reach Stanley Cup Final

NHL Playoffs: Penguins beat Senators in 2OT of Game 7 to reach Stanley Cup Final

BOX SCORE

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Penguins are heading back to the Stanley Cup Final.

Chris Kunitz beat Craig Anderson 5:09 into the second overtime to give the defending champions a 3-2 victory over the Ottawa Senators in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final Thursday night.

Kunitz scored twice, his first two of the playoffs. Justin Schultz added the other in his return from an upper-body injury, and Matt Murray stopped 28 shots on his 23rd birthday.

The Penguins are trying to become the first team since the Detroit Red Wings in 1998 to win back-to-back titles. They will host Western Conference champion Nashville in Game 1 on Monday night.

Mark Stone and Ryan Dzingel scored for Ottawa. The Senators rallied twice to tie it, with Dzingel making it 2-2 with 5:19 left in regulation.

Craig Anderson made 39 saves, but couldn't get a handle on Kunitz's shot from just outside the left circle. The Senators are 0-6 in Game 7s in franchise history.

The Senators forced a return trip to Pittsburgh -- where they lost 7-0 loss in Game 5 on Sunday -- by leaning heavily on Anderson in a 2-1 Game 6 victory, putting both teams at odds with history.

Ottawa came in 0-for-25 years in winner-take-all games, while the Penguins were 0-7 in Game 7s at home in series in which they also dropped Game 6.

Ottawa coach Guy Boucher told his resilient team to not get caught up in the big picture but instead focus on the small ones, a recipe that carried the Senators throughout a bumpy transition under their first-year head coach to the brink of the franchise's second Cup appearance.

The Penguins, trying to become the first defending champion to return to the finals since Detroit in 2009, came in confident they would advance if they could replicate their dominant Game 6, when they were undone only by Anderson's brilliance.

Pittsburgh has been nearly unflappable in the face of adversity under Mike Sullivan, going 12-2 in playoff games following a loss over the last two springs. He encouraged his team to "just play," code for fighting through Ottawa's neutral zone-clogging style and the bumping, grabbing and pulling that comes along with it.

A chance to play for their sport's ultimate prize on the line, the sheets of open ice the Penguins found so easily in Games 4-6 closed up. For most of the first 30 minutes, loose pucks hopped over sticks to spoil some scoring opportunities while Anderson and Murray gobbled up the rest.

Kunitz, relegated to the fourth line since returning from injury in the second round, picked up his first postseason goal in a calendar year when he completed a two-on-one with Conor Sheary -- a healthy scratch in Games 5 and 6 -- by slipping the puck by Anderson 9:55 into the second period.

The momentum lasted all of 20 seconds. Ottawa responded immediately with Stone -- who stretched his left skate to stay onside -- fired a wrist shot that handcuffed Murray.

Pittsburgh kept coming. Schultz, returning after missing four games with an upper-body injury, zipped a shot from the point through Kunitz's screen and into the net with 8:16 left in the third.

Once again, the Penguins could not hold the lead. Dzingel set up at the right post and banged home a rebound off Erik Karlsson's shot that hit the left post and caromed off Murray's back right to Dzingel's stick.

Notes
The home team is 21-20 in overtime Game 7s in NHL playoff history. ... Pittsburgh F Patric Hornqvist skated during warmups, but was held out of the lineup for a sixth straight game with an upper-body injury. ... Karlsson had 16 assists in the playoffs to set a team record. ... The Penguins are 10-7 in Game 7s. ... It was the fifth one-goal game of the series.

Howie Kendrick hit by pitch twice, removed from rehab start at Triple A

Howie Kendrick hit by pitch twice, removed from rehab start at Triple A

Howie Kendrick experienced a painful rehab start on Thursday night.

Rehabbing with Triple A Lehigh Valley, Kendrick was hit by a pitch twice before being removed after the sixth inning of the IronPigs' 8-4 loss to Indianapolis at Coca-Cola Park.

Both times Kendrick was plunked in the upper left arm, according to Tom Housenick of the Morning Call.

There was no update on if Kendrick was injured or taken out for precautionary reasons. Thursday marked Kendrick's second rehab start as he recovers from an oblique strain that has sidelined him since April 15.

The Phillies' leftfielder started at third base Thursday. At the beginning of his rehab assignment, Kendrick was expected to play four games and see time at third and first base, as well as in left field.

Kendrick made a throwing error at third on Thursday and finished 0 for 1 with a run scored. In his two games, he's 0 for 3 with two strikeouts.

Kendrick hit .333 with four doubles, a triple and five RBIs in 10 games with the Phillies prior to landing on the DL.

When he returns, he could see time at third base instead of left field if Maikel Franco continues to struggle (see story).