Saturday, 14 April 2012

That Pivotal Moment

There is a moment in nearly every playoff series that one can find where a specific play ultimately decides the series winner. Sometimes, it's something very small and seemingly inconsequential, but we normally see momentum changes in series when something big happens. This could be anything from a devastating bodycheck to a fight to a timely goal to a larcenous save made by a goalie. If you were watching the Flyers-Penguins game yesterday, you may have caught the series-changing event in the first period that, in my opinion, put the Flyers in full control of this series.

With the Penguins leading the game midway through the first period by a 2-0 score, it appeared that Kris Letang was going to give Pittsburgh another 3-0 lead when Sidney Crosby found Letang wide open with nothing but a yawning cage to shoot at. The only person who didn't believe this was Ilya Bryzgalov who came up with "the save".
That was a game-changing save because Philadelphia seemingly came to life when it looked like all the momentum was in Pittsburgh's favor. The Penguins had scored early, the Penguins were staying out of trouble, and it looked as though they would have Philadelphia in another big hole to start a game.

This save, though, was not unlike Max Talbot's series-changing moment in Game Six in the 2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs. With Pittsburgh trailing 3-0 and the Flyers having abused Pittsburgh throughout the series to that point, Talbot and Carcillo decided to dance. It appeared that there would be a Game Seven after the Flyers staked the early lead, but the Talbot-Carcillo tilt turned the tide in Game Six as Pittsburgh scored the next five goals in the game. Here's the fight that turned that game and series in Pittsburgh's favor.
It's not as if Talbot was Pittsburgh's best pugilist in that series, but he took it upon himself to say "enough is enough", and his scrap with Carcillo seemed to take the wind out of Philly's sails at that point. It's almost as if Pittsburgh and Philadelphia both realized that one team would not be pushed around any longer.

If Pittsburgh has any hope in getting back into this series after that Bryzgalov save last night, they are going to need all twenty players in that locker room to step up. The Penguins have, thus far, wilted when pressured physically, and this series won't get any easier now that they are down 2-0. The Penguins will need a play of their own to counter the swelling momentum that Philly has, but it has to be something that happens through a developing play rather than something forced. If the "event" is forced, it will do nothing to swing the momentum back in Pittsburgh's favor, and may actually help Philly's chances.

No more staged fights, no more crap after the whistle, and no more cheap shots, Pittsburgh. It's a "nose to the grindstone" series now for you. And Bryzgalov's save? It was "humungous big" for Philly in this series, and it might just be the beginning of the end for the Penguins.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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