Shortening Pens’ stretch attack will be one tall order

Andrew MacDonald

PITTSBURGH – Aside from purchasing a few lariat-lasso ropes at your local rodeo store, how do you slow down these breathtakingly fast Pittsburgh Penguins?

To hear the Flyers tell it, the process should start way up at the far end of the rink.

If you can bottle up play with an aggressive forecheck, it makes it a little more difficult for the Penguins to make cute outlet passes and hit the neutral zone with a full head of steam.

Whether the Flyers have the skaters to perform this task remains to be seen.

But either way, Philadelphia’s squad is going to give it a go when the best-of-seven series resumes Friday night at PPG Paints Arena.

Defenseman Andrew MacDonald isn’t one of those aforementioned forecheckers. However, he is the beneficiary of good forechecking up ice. Who wants to see Sidney Crosby bearing down on you with extra manpower on his flanks?

“If we can establish a good forecheck and work them down low (by the Pittsburgh net), it’s a little bit tougher for them to do that (hit the red line with speed),’’ MacDonald said after Thursday’s practice.

“You know, I think our neutral zone. . . we can do a better job of slowing them down. They come through with lots of speed, setting up redirects. It’s a staple of their game. Something they’re certainly good at and something we have to adjust to.’’

It all starts with good positioning, but nothing new there.

“It’s about us playing the way we’re capable of playing,’’ MacDonald said. “I don’t think last night was indicative of that at all.

“No doubt, it’s a frustrating loss but at the end of the day, it’s one game, it’s not going to be about who scores the most goals in the series, it’s whoever wins four (games) the fastest.’’


Players endorse set lineup


Players such as MacDonald, Claude Giroux, Wayne Simmonds and Travis Konecny all said there’s really no reason to shake up line combinations or player personnel.

Besides, with the exception of forward Jordan Weal and rookie defenseman Robert Hagg, what are the options? Dale Weise or Johnny Oduya certainly won’t strike terror in the hearts of the Penguins.

“We’re not going to change the way we play or what we do because of one game,’’ Giroux said. “It (Game 1) was not a pretty one but we’ve put that behind us already.’’

MacDonald wasn’t surprised that no changes appear to be on the horizon.

“With one game like that, you don’t want to hit the panic button and scramble everything up,’’ MacDonald said. “By some chance, if that happened in multiple games, then yeah maybe.

“But one game, I don’t think you panic. I think it (this lineup) has been working for us pretty well of late. I think we’re just going to chalk that one up as a bad one for us and we move on to Game 2.’’

Added Konecny: “He (Hakstol) definitely believes in our group, we’ve played well the last three games with those (line) combinations. It’s just one hiccup, one game.’’

For those who sort of expected to see Konecny returned to the Sean Couturier-Giroux line in place of Michael Raffl, that might not happen.

“It wasn’t our finest moment, obviously,’’ Simmonds said. “It’s pretty embarrassing. You lose in overtime, you lose 7-0. It’s just one loss.

“We’re going to go out there and play. If the lines have to be changed, then the coaches do that. As of now, we’re the same units.’’


Neuvirth getting close


Michal Neuvirth has played a grand total of 28 minutes since Feb. 18, so there’s going to be a rust factor if he does get into this series.

Still, he has done some of his finest work in the postseason (a career 1.93 goals-against average in 13 games), so the Flyers are keeping an eye on this.

“I think I’m close,’’ he said. “Today was just my third time on the ice. It’s been good. Right now, it’s conditioning, the speed – those are biggest things.’’


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About Wayne Fish 2437 Articles
Wayne Fish has been covering the Flyers since 1976, a stint which includes 18 Stanley Cup Finals, four Winter Olympics and numerous other international events.

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