Maybe it won't happen against the offensively inept New Jersey Devils, but the Philadelphia Flyers had better get it together between the ears or they're going to find themselves on the golf course rather than deep in the playoffs.
In what can be best described as a fortunate result, the Flyers, who dominated the game 5-on-5, took unnecessary penalty after unnecessary penalty throughout Game 3, which led to both New Jersey goals via the power play, but still managed to squeak out a 3-2 OT win.
Philadelphia is far better team than the Devils in terms of skill, but right now they're inferior in terms of smarts (though New Jersey isn't doing itself any favors, either, with plenty of dumb infractions itself). Philly took nine minors in Game 3, not one of which by my count could be classified as a good penalty – one that directly prevented a scoring chance.
The Flyers phenomenal penalty kill, coupled with New Jersey's baffling reticence to shoot on the power play, has allowed them to overcome all the man disadvantages so far, but it won't last long when they eventually run into the Capitals or Penguins down the post-season road.
The most troubling part is most of the trips to the box aren't a product of physical play, rather they're away-from-the-play stick infractions or interference calls. The Devils series was going to be hard-fought from puck drop in Game 1 to the final whistle in the deciding tilt and throwing the body around is going to result in some calls. Those types of calls can be lived with; the bonehead plays can't.
(As an aside, but still in the realm of bonehead, I'd be shocked if Daniel Carcillo gets a call that goes his way for the rest of these playoffs. His faux high stick in the first period won't soon be forgotten by the men in stripes.)
With eight of the 16 goals in this series being scored on the power play, it's clear the man-up situation will be the ultimate decider of who moves on and the Flyers are playing with fire if they continue this trend.
Flyers coach Peter Laviolette can complain all he wants from the bench about missed calls, but it's his troops who will be the authors of their demise – either this series or next – if they can't consistently stay out of the sin bin.
Lou Lamoriello paid a fairly steep price to bring in what will likely be a rental player in Ilya Kovalchuk. Right now the Devils GM is not getting very good bang for his buck. Kovy has been unable to generate anything in terms of goal scoring (his lone tally of the series was an empty-netter in Game 2) and is pushing the play rather than being patient and allowing the game to come to him.
Perhaps so many years on a relatively inept offensive squad in Atlanta has saddled the 27-year-old Russian with a lone-horse mentality, but he needs to spend more time attempting to settle into holes without the puck rather than trying to gash his way through three opposing defenders on his own.
Martin Brodeur – questions about his play after being usurped in the Olympics have been answered.
Chris Pronger – played, and dominated, for more than 31 minutes, including 9:20 shorthanded.
Mike Richards – orchestrated the OT-winner and scored the game-tying goal; led all Philly forwards in TOI.
THN.com's Playoff Blogs, featuring analysis and opinion on the action from the night before, with insight on what happened and what it all means going forward, will appear daily throughout the NHL playoffs. Read more entries HERE.
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Edward Fraser is the managing editor of The Hockey News. His blog appears weekly.
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