(Philadelphia, PA) - One of the most obvious storylines of this first-round playoff series between the Flyers and Penguins has been the hitting.
In the first two games, the Penguins were credited with 80 hits, compared to 66 for the Flyers. In Game 3, however, the Flyers outhit the Penguins 29-18, and Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik, who had 14 hits in Game 2, had none in Game 3.
While real-time statistics like hits seem to vary building by building, the Penguins admit the Flyers dictated the physical play in Game 3.
|The Flyers' Andrew Alberts and Jordan Staal collide in Game 3 at the Wachovia Center. (Getty Images) |
"They did take the play to us (Sunday) night, no doubt about that," Penguins defenseman Rob Scuderi told NHL.com. "They decided they were going to put the puck on the net, get the puck deep in the zone and play physical. It worked out well for them, they executed their game plan, which was to be physical and be aggressive."
Leading the hit parade for the Flyers were Daniel Carcillo, Darroll Powe and Andrew Alberts with four each.
Whether you believe the accuracy of the stats or not, it was obvious the Penguins were the more physical team in the first two games played in Pittsburgh's Mellon Arena. Game 3 was played here at the Wachovia Center, the home for Game 4 Tuesday (7:00 p.m., CSN, VS).
"I think they feed off their crowd like every other team that plays at home," Sidney Crosby said. "They play with a lot of energy. … Every team always has a little extra step when they're at home, that's pretty typical of every team. They're not any different."
For one night, at least, they were. The Flyers held onto pucks a bit longer and out-shot the Pens for the first time in the series, 31-29.
"(Sunday) night we didn't have the puck all that often," Scuderi said. "When they have the puck, they have possession, they can dump it in and then they're hitting you. If you're playing in your defensive zone, chances are you're the one getting hit. That was their plan and they achieved it."
And while all buildings can get loud when the home team excels, the Wachovia Center was a frozen tsunami of noise.
"They seemed like a desperate hockey team,” Pascal Dupuis said. “They really wanted to win, they played hard. They played hard in front of their fans. When you finish your hits, that's the kind of game the crowd loves here."
The Penguins' counter to the Flyers' increased aggression is to match it, even surpass it, much like they did in the first two games. Crosby said, however, the key is doing it in a smart way. Otherwise, the Penguins could do what the Flyers did in Game 1 -- let the emotions overwhelm, leading to undisciplined penalties and too much time shorthanded.
"When somebody on your team gets an extra hit or gets dragged into a scrum, it's hard not to help them out," Crosby said. "We have to go whistle to whistle. We know that type of game and we don't want to play it."
Instead, they want to stick to the style Scuderi said they've been playing since Dan Bylsma took over as coach in mid-February -- get the puck deep in the Flyers' zone and be aggressive on their forecheck.
"We'll have to step our game up and be more physical if we want time and space with the puck," Scuderi said.